The following post by Joe Deshotel is cross-posted from Burnt Orange Report. Deshotel is a BOR staff writer. His post notes two recent incidents — a dispute at a public school district and remarks by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a conference call with pastors – that illustrate the continuing efforts by some to blur the line separating church and state. That separation is one of the most important protections for religious freedom in America.

Hidden behind the pine curtain a small East Texas town has erupted into a frenzy after school officials banned religious banners held by cheerleaders during high school football games. Kountze ISD Superintendent Kevin Weldon told the students to cease the practice after he received advice from his legal council to comply with an anonymous complaint. Texas law allows religious banners and signs at school functions as long as they are made by students and were not encouraged by faculty or school officials. The KISD restriction only applies to the on-field display of signs by uniformed representatives of the school, but the cheerleaders, football players, town of 2,100 and 30,000+ Facebook groupies have taken it as a full assault… Read More

Churches and religious organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.

The above is from the Internal Revenue Service’s Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations. Pretty straight-forward. So how does that jibe with this, courtesy of El Paso’s St. Raphael Catholic Church bulletin:

I am asking all of you to go to the polls and be united in replacing our present president with a president that will respect the Catholic Church in this country

Short answer: It doesn’t. It so, so doesn’t. And now Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked the IRS for an investigation of St. Raphael.

This is just one example of a church rallying its members to vote for — or against — a political candidate and endangering its tax-exempt status in the process. El Paso has been embroiled in another similar controversy that arose after the city council voted to give health benefits to gay and unmarried partners of city employees. In that case, Pastor Tom Brown allegedly used church resources in an unsuccessful recall of the… Read More

This Friday we’ll be monitoring a state senate photo op committee hearing here in Austin on one of the longstanding pet causes for the far right: school vouchers.

Yes, vouchers are back. Again. After failing to pass voucher legislation at each legislative session since 1995, the far right seems poised to try, try again next year when they reconvene for the 83rd Texas Legislative Session.

We’ve said it many times before: All voucher schemes accomplish is to drain scarce taxpayer funds from public schools and funnel them to private and religiously affiliated schools. And, if you were paying attention during the 2011 Legislative session, public schools don’t have much more to give after lawmakers stripped school district budgets of roughly $4 billion.

But such concerns won’t stop the far right from giving it another shot. State Sen. Dan Patrick, who will act as chair at Friday’s Senate Committee on Education hearing, made his intentions quite clear in a Houston Chronicle story just a few weeks ago:

“To me, school choice is the photo ID bill of this session. Our base has wanted us to pass photo voter ID for years, and we did it. They’ve been wanting us… Read More

Social conservatives have long pointed to the constitutional bar on government-sponsored prayer in public schools as the source of many of society’s ills. Just last week, when a gunman opened fire in a crowded movie theater, some trotted out the “If only we had prayer in schools” argument as a solution for preventing such tragedies.

Texas state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, however, has her own solution. In a post on her Facebook page Monday, she seems to accept the fact that government-sponsored prayer is not allowed in public schools — though students are free to pray in public schools as long as it’s not officially sanctioned by administrators — and she offers an alternative:

I say have a reading out of Proverbs each day in our classrooms.

No, really, she said it. Here’s her full post:

Formal prayer has been taken out of our schools. How about this idea? Read from the book of Proverbs from the Bible. Proverbs is a book of wisdom. Proverbs is in the Holy Scriptures for Christians and Jews. As for other religions — the wisdom won’t do them any harm. This nation was built on Christian and Jewish values and the Bible… Read More

Former Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) member Cynthia Dunbar still seems determined to destroy the most important protection for religious freedom in America: the First Amendment.

As a member of the Texas SBOE in 2010, Dunbar lead successful opposition to requiring that public school students in social studies classrooms learn how the First Amendment protects religious freedom by barring government from promoting one faith perspective over all others. The Constitution does not protect separation of church and state, she argued. Dunbar insisted, instead, that the nation’s Founders actually wanted government to promote religion. Last Saturday Dunbar went even further while speaking at an anti-abortion rally in Ohio. From our friends at Right Wing Watch:

Cynthia Dunbar, a former member of the Texas Board of Education who is now a law professor at Liberty University, in her address to the rally made the specious claim that “94% of the quotes of the Founding Fathers contemporaneous to our nation’s founding came either directly or indirectly from the Bible” and maintained that legislators shouldn’t worry about passing the unconstitutional Heartbeat Bill since “Roe v. Wade is not law at all.” “Guess what legislators,” Dunbar… Read More