Texas state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, thinks he’s somehow qualified to tell local school districts and teachers what instructional materials they can use in their classrooms, but he doesn’t have a very good understanding of the basics of American constitutional freedoms. Speaking at the Mims Baptist Church in Conroe this past weekend, the Houston Press reports, Patrick informed congregants:

“There is no separation of church and state. It was not in the constitution.”

That declaration is unlikely to persuade a U.S. Supreme Court that has issued numerous rulings upholding separation of church and state under the U.S. Constitution over the span of many decades. Moreover, 68 percent of likely Texas voters responding to a poll conducted for the TFN Education Fund in May 2010 agreed that “separation of church and state is a key principle of our Constitution.”

Of course, it’s hardly surprising that Sen. Patrick would say such a thing. He has already announced his campaign for lieutenant governor, and pandering to religious-right voters who also oppose separation of church and state seems like a natural strategy for him.… Read More

At a time when the Southern Baptist Convention has fallen completely under the control of religious fundamentalists who seek to use government to promote their own ideological views, it might be hard to remember the long tradition of Baptist support for separation of church and state. Many Baptists still support it. Take, for example, the Rev. Charles Johnson, pastor of Bread Fellowship in Fort Worth. On Tuesday he spoke before the Texas Senate Education Committee against Senate Bill 23, a measure that would provide state tax credits to businesses that fund voucher scholarships for students at private and religious schools. He was testifying on behalf of the Christian Life Commission and the Coalition for Public Schools. TFN is a member of that coalition, which opposes private school voucher schemes.

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the author of SB 23 and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has argued repeatedly that his bill doesn’t create a government-funded voucher program that subsidizes tuition at nonpublic schools. But Rev. Johnson clearly and correctly explained that the bill’s tax breaks for businesses would take money that would otherwise go to public schools and send it to private… Read More

Whether on prayer in public schools or creationism in science classrooms, we heard plenty from politicians and activists who see no problem mixing religion and state. Our review of what the far right had to say in 2012 continues. You can read more quotes from 2012 and previous years here.

“In 1962 we kicked prayer out of the schools. In 1963 we kicked God’s word out of ours schools. In 1980 we kicked the Ten Commandments out of our schools. We’ve kicked God out of our public school system. And I think God would say to us, ‘Hey, I’ll be glad to protect your children, but you’ve got to invite me back into your world first. I’m not going to go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentleman.'”

— The always-thoughtful and compassionate (NOT) spokesperson of the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, blaming the Connecticut school shootings on there being no government-forced prayer in public schools

“To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square… Read More

It didn’t take long for religious-righters to use the horrifying tragedy in Connecticut last week as another opportunity to bash America for supposedly ignoring God. Today, for example, a Texas-based group with too many names — Liberty Institute presently, formerly Free Market Foundation, and now with a special offshoot called Texas Values — proclaimed its agreement with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s assessment of the murder of 20 young children and a half-dozen educators in a Connecticut school. Speaking on his Fox News show this weekend, Huckabee suggested that the shooting happened because America has been too busy “escorting” God “out of our culture” and the public square. Liberty Institute’s Facebook post today:

“Where was God during the Connecticut shooting? Liberty Institute agrees with Mike Huckabee, and we will continue to stand up for those who believe this should still be one nation under God.”

The group’s Facebook post then links to a video clip (see below) from Huckabee’s December 15 show. Here’s an extended excerpt from what Huckabee said (emphasis added):

“For 50 years we’ve systematically attempted to have God removed from our schools, our public activities, but then at the… Read More

We’ll give this to him: he’s persistent.

On the first day (today) that lawmakers can file bills for the 2013 session of the Texas Legislature, state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, has proposed a bill — House Bill 49 — requiring public high school students to take a course on the U.S. Constitution. Seems reasonable? Of course — except that high schools already teach such a course: U.S. Government.

Flynn filed the same bill in 2011, and it went nowhere. Lawmakers didn’t seem to see much value in having school districts repeat something they already teach in another course (especially while Flynn and other legislators were voting to slash billions of dollars in funding for public education at the same time).

Flynn has also filed House Bill 51, which would bar local school districts from prohibiting the posting of the Ten Commandments “in a prominent location in a district classroom.” The same bill (filed by Flynn) also went nowhere last session. Perhaps Flynn should study up on the Constitution himself — especially the part about no government establishment of religion.… Read More