Rick Perry is so determined to pander to religious-right voters in the Republican presidential primaries that he wants to gut the First Amendment, one of the most important protections for religious freedom in America. See the partial transcript below from Gov. Perry's interview on Fox News Sunday this past weekend. Let's be clear: Gov. Perry is simply not telling the truth when he suggests that children can't "pray in school any time that they would like." They can and many do. What the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars is public schools sponsoring or encouraging prayer. That prohibition protects the right of families and congregations to direct the religious education of their children. It also protects the right of students to pray their own prayers based on their own religious beliefs, not the religious beliefs of the teacher or school administrators. In short, public schools may not decide whose religious beliefs to favor or disfavor. But Gov. Perry wants a constitutional amendment sweeping away that fundamental protection. By arguing to overturn the 1962 Supreme Court decision barring school-sponsored (read: government-approved) prayer, he's looking to gut the First Amendment. And that would threaten religious freedom for all Americans. Read More

As we reported yesterday, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board voted to approve the “Calvary Hill” specialty license plate, which includes the words “One State Under God” and three crosses on a hill:

Just a little thought experiment — do you think the DMV board’s vote would have gone the same way if the proposed design looked like this:

Or this:

Or this:

I’m skeptical.

And I’m even more skeptical that the lobbyist for Focus on the Family-Texas would be in the papers arguing that the state should authorize those plates:

“Private speech, protected by the First Amendment, should not be subjected to second-class treatment. Anyone who opposed this plate either doesn’t know the law or has no respect for the First Amendment.”

But if this really is about the First Amendment, what’s the difference?… Read More

The Texas Freedom Network just sent out the following press release:

STATE APPROVAL OF CHRISTIAN-THEMED LICENSE PLATE DISRESPECTFUL OF CHRISTIANITY, RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

DMV Board Vote Diminishes Religious Liberty in Texas

Thursday’s approval by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board of a Christian-themed specialty license plate is disrespectful of Christianity and the religious freedom of people of all faiths, spokespersons for the state’s leading religious liberties watchdog said today.

“It’s become pretty clear that our governor is dismissive of religious beliefs other than his own, and now his governmental appointees have voted to send a message that Texas is unwelcoming to the religious faiths of some of its citizens,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said. “The truth is that giving government the power to play favorites with faith ultimately diminishes religious freedom for everyone.”

The DMV board approved the “Calvary Hill” specialty license plate design on a 4-3 vote. Proceeds from the government-approved design, which includes the words “One State Under God” and three crosses on a hill, will benefit a Christian youth outreach program. Christians themselves should be concerned by the board’s approval of the license plate design, said the Rev. Dr. Larry Bethune, a TFN… Read More

David Barton‘s much talked about appearance on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart is not going away, with lots of keystrokes and time being devoted to analyzing the faux historian’s comments and assertions.

One of those doing some analyzing is Prof. John Fea.

Prof. Fea’s analysis is particularly interesting because of his own résumé. Fea is a historian who teaches at a Christian institution — Messiah College in Pennsylvania. He is the kind of guy Barton might want analyzing his historical “facts,” someone who might be more likely to be receptive to Barton’s views and his propensity to peddle a sectarian slant on history. That is, if only Fea were a dishonest historian. Except, the Messiah College professor is not.

In a seven-part series, Fea methodically takes apart Barton’s “Daily Show” appearance.

Apologists for Barton often try to discredit his critics by claiming they’re just a bunch of godless interest groups or elitist liberal academics. Well, here you go.

Fea’s series on Barton is available on his blog:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

Because of the evolving body of case law and complicated constitutional issues surrounding the posting of the Ten Commandments in public spaces, TFN Insider asked one of the nation's top First Amendment scholars, Steven Green, to take a look at state Rep. Dan Flynn's problematic legislation promoting the Ten Commandments in Texas schools. Here is Dr. Green's analysis of House Bill 79 in the Texas Legislature. Analysis of Texas HB 79 By Dr. Steven K. Green, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Religion, Law & Democracy at Willamette University. Dr. Green is the author of several books on the religious liberty provisions of the First Amendment, including most recently The Second Disestablishment: Church and State in Nineteenth Century America (Oxford, 2010). As currently written, HB 79 would prevent any school district from prohibiting the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments in a prominent location in any public school classroom. The bill does not state who may post the Ten Commandments in a classroom, but the assumption is that it would be done by a public school employee, as public school classrooms are not public forums and are otherwise…… Read More