Texas

Video: The Worst Of The GOP's Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

As President Obama prepares to announce the steps that he will take to provide temporary deportation relief for some undocumented immigrants, it’s important to remember why he’s taking this step. It’s not because Obama and Democrats refuse to work with Republicans to address pressing immigration problems. It’s because a small but influential segment of the Republican caucus refuses to do anything to fix the immigration system.

Today, we at People For the American Way joined with American Bridge to release a video highlighting the kind of rhetoric from congressional Republicans that has sunk any kind of attempt at bipartisan immigration reform.

Some of the examples of anti-immigrant rhetoric from GOP members of Congress will be familiar to RWW readers. And, sadly, we have plenty more where they came from.

Ted Cruz Vows to Damage Texas Courts in Response to Obama's Immigration Action

In response to President Obama's upcoming action on immigration, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has vowed to retaliate by sabotaging the federal court system in his own state.

No, that's not how he phrased it, but that would be the impact of his vow. Yesterday in Politico, Cruz wrote how he thinks the Senate should respond to the president's policy decisions on immigration enforcement:

If the president announces executive amnesty, the new Senate majority leader who takes over in January should announce that the 114th Congress will not confirm a single nominee—executive or judicial—outside of vital national security positions, so long as the illegal amnesty persists.

While such a refusal to perform one of the basic functions of the Senate would harm the entire nation, the damage in Texas would be particularly severe. No state has more judicial vacancies than the Lone Star State. No state even comes close.

As of today, Texas is suffering from eleven current federal court vacancies, with another four known to be opening in the next few months. The White House has worked closely with Sens. Cruz and Cornyn to identify potential nominees, but progress has been slow: Only six of the vacancies even have nominees; three of these have not yet had their committee hearings.

But the other three – for the Eastern and Western Districts – advanced through the Judiciary Committee this morning and are now ready for a confirmation vote by the full Senate. All three would fill vacancies formally designated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. Confirming them would be a good start at addressing the vacancy crisis in Texas.

And that's what is it: a crisis. As we wrote earlier this month in a Huffington Post piece entitled Lame Duck Opportunity and Obligation: Confirm Judges:

The situation is even more dire in Texas, where the Senate has a chance to fill three vacancies in the Eastern and Western Districts. The Western District judgeship has been vacant since 2008, and the Judicial Conference has asked for five new judgeships there to carry the load on top of filling all the existing vacancies. Chief Judge Fred Biery discussed the need for new judges last year, saying, "It would be nice to get some help. We are pedaling as fast as we can on an increasingly rickety bicycle." Judge David Ezra, formerly of Hawaii, explained why he was moving to Texas to hear cases in the Western District: "This is corollary to having a big wild fire in the Southwest Border states, and fire fighters from Hawaii going there to help put out the fire."

The Eastern District of Texas is in similar need of getting its vacancies filled during the lame duck: Of the nation's 94 federal districts, only two have had more weighted filings per judgeship than the Eastern District, according to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts' most recent statistics. Small wonder, then, that the Judicial Conference has asked for two new judgeships there: Even if every judgeship were filled, that just isn't enough. To make matters worse, two more judges in the Eastern District have announced their intention to retire or take senior status next year, making it all the more important to fill the current vacancies now.

Even if the three nominees are confirmed during the lame duck, as they should be, more vacancies in both of those districts will open up early next year. Texas would still have eight vacancies, a number that would rise to twelve in the next few months.

To express his fury at President Obama and rally his right-wing base, Cruz would work to make sure that all these vacancies remain unfilled, which would hurt a lot of innocent Texans.

Cross-posted from the PFAW blog.

Ted Cruz Vows to Damage Texas Courts in Response to Obama's Immigration Action

Ted Cruz urges a retaliatory freeze on all confirmations next year, which would cause particular damage to courts in his own state.
PFAW

Lamar Smith: Democrats Want Immigration Action Because They're 'Banking On' New Votes

Rep. Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas, said today that the “extreme fringe of the Democratic Party” is supporting an executive action providing deportation relief to some undocumented immigrants because it “wants to treat those from other countries better than we treat our own American citizens” and ultimately is “banking” on the votes of new immigrants.

“It’s amazing that an American president, a United States president, would put the interest of those who don’t live in the country or are in the country illegally ahead of the interest of American citizens,” Smith told Newsmax host J.D. Hayworth.

When Hayworth asked Smith about far-right columnist Selwyn Duke’s argument that deportation relief would amount to a “get-out-the-vote drive” for Democrats, Smith agreed, saying “demographics” indicate that immigrants covered under the proposed executive action — which does not include a path to citizenship or voting rights — will give 80 percent of their votes to Democrats.

“I wish that weren’t the case, but those are the demographics and the president and the Democratic Party are banking on them, and that’s why I say they’re putting the interest of other individuals ahead of the interests of U.S. citizens,” he said.

Rick Scarborough: 'Christians Have Infiltrated The Republican Party In Texas' And Turned It Into A Revival Meeting

Vision America's Rick Scarborough was a guest on Gordon Klingenschmitt's "Pray In Jesus Name" program recently, where he explained that God is blessing the state of Texas because "Christians have infiltrated" and taken over the state GOP.

Scarborough was discussing his efforts to mobilize right-wing pastors to get involved in politics across the nation and noting that he has had a great deal of success in Texas; so much so that if one now attends an annual Republican Party convention in Texas, it feels as if one is attending a revival meeting.

"Christians have infiltrated the Republican Party in Texas and it's like going to revival meetings when you go to our state conventions," Scarborough said. "That's why God's blessing our state and why, I believe, Texas has become a model for other states":

Five Conservatives Who Don't Understand Net Neutrality…But Are Definitely Against It!

On Monday, President Obama publicly urged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt strong rules preserving net neutrality, the principle that internet service providers must treat all data equally.

Obama’s comments placed a previously fairly niche technical issue right into the middle of the national political debate, forcing commentators to take a side on something many of them did not seem to understand. But luckily, many conservative politicians and pundits have an easy way of deciding where to stand on an issue: if Obama is for it, it will destroy America and they are against it!

1. Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz got the right-wing net neutrality pile-on started with a tweet calling the proposal “Obamacare for the Internet."

It didn’t really make sense, but as Matt Yglesias notes, that wasn’t the point: “What, if anything, that phrase means is difficult to say. But its political significance is easy to grasp. All true conservatives hate Obamacare, so if net neutrality is Obamacare for the internet, all true conservatives should rally against it.”

2. Bryan Fischer

As soon as Cruz spoke out, his far-right acolytes seem to have felt obligated to follow. On his radio program on Monday, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer struggled to grasp the proposal that he was definitely against, claiming that it would ban internet providers from charging customers more for faster service — something that already happens and that has nothing to do with net neutrality.

3. Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck is outraged that President Obama wants to end “the freedom of the internet” and ruin something that’s “working pretty well” because “the government is not involved in it at all.” Apparently unaware that current FCC regulations allow his online network, The Blaze, to stream on an open internet, Beck claimed that regulations preserving net neutrality would end this supposedly government-free system in which he operates his business.

Beck’s cohost Pat Gray accidentally debunked his own point by comparing Internet regulation to the interstate highway system, which he seems to also think remains open and accessible because it’s free from government interference.

4. FreedomWorks

The Tea Party group FreedomWorks got into the game yesterday with a video “clearing up” net neutrality for its supporters.

As Consumerist explains, FreedomWorks’ net neutrality explanation is basically a work of fiction:

“Supporters of the plan call it a [uses finger quotes] ‘free and open Internet’ but in reality it’s anything but,” says Somberg. “What net neutrality does is force providers to treat all Web content equally — the same speeds, the same prices, the same access.”

This is simply untrue.

Net neutrality merely says that ISPs can’t slow down, block, or prioritize any content. It doesn’t mean that everything gets treated with the same speed — just that an ISP does nothing to impede or boost any particular content company’s speed. So if it’s fast coming in from the company, it should be fast going out to the end-user. And if the host is slow, then it remains slow.

5. Alex Jones

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones added his own special twist to the net neutrality debate, claiming that it is a “high tech version of what the Soviets and the Nazis and the Chinese Communists and Fidel Castro and every other nut ball did.” 

Bonus: David Barton

While net neutrality might have just recently crossed the radar of many right-wing commentators, make-believe historian David Barton has been beating the anti-net-neutrality drum for years. In 2011, Barton called net neutrality “socialism on the internet” and “redistribution of wealth through the internet” and insisted that it is "wicked stuff" that goes against the dictates of the Bible and the Founding Fathers.

This launched Barton into a discourse on the concept of “fairness,” which he said “is a word no Christian should ever use in their vocabulary” because “what happened to Jesus wasn’t fair.”

Anti-Choice Group Moving Into Planned Parenthood Clinic Closed By Texas Abortion Restrictions

Last year, hours after Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law a sweeping anti-choice bill designed to shut down abortion providers in the state, Planned Parenthood announced that it would be closing three of its Texas clinics that provide abortion services, all of them in rural areas, leaving women seeking an abortion far from other providers.

Now, the anti-choice group 40 Days for Life, which organizes protests outside of abortion clinics throughout the country, is announcing that it is moving its national headquarters into one of the shuttered Planned Parenthood facilities in Texas. Where Planned Parenthood used to provide medical care, 40 Days for Life is also planning to house an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center.

40 Days for Life credits its members’ prayers for giving it its new headquarters:

BRYAN/COLLEGE STATION, Texas /Christian Newswire/ -- The worldwide 40 Days for Life movement is moving its headquarters into a former Planned Parenthood abortion center in Bryan/College Station, Texas. The pro-life initiative began outside that same facility ten years ago.

"This news shows what God can accomplish when His people pray," said Shawn Carney, campaign director of 40 Days for Life. "More than 6,400 children lost their lives in this building, but God is making 'all things new.' What was once a place of death and despair is now going to be a place of life and hope. We are excited to start using this location to aid the rapid worldwide growth of 40 Days for Life, and to help other cities become abortion-free."



Short-term plans include a memorial service for the children lost to abortion inside the building, and tearing down the tall, black iron fence surrounding the property as part of renovations.

The new 40 Days for Life headquarters will be used to help many more communities end abortion. The building will also house Hope Pregnancy Center, an affiliate of CareNet, as they expand their local medical services to include free STD testing. "The partnership between the two organizations demonstrates the close relationship between 40 Days for Life and life-saving pregnancy resource centers," Carney said.

Planned Parenthood, however, had a different explanation for the clinic’s closing: drastic cuts to family planning aid in Texas, aimed directly at Planned Parenthood:

Rochelle Tafolla with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast said they’re closing the center because of continued and targeted cuts to family planning.

She said it started when the budget for the Family Planning Network was drastically cut. Soon after, Tafolla said they were further hindered when the Women’s Health Program in Texas came to an end.

And those two programs provided the vast majority of access for women in east Texas to get basic health care, said Tafolla. Well-Woman exams, birth control and cervical cancer screenings.

Tafolla said it’s the City of Bryan and surrounding communities that will suffer from the closing.

The big deal is that women have relied on Planned Parenthood. They’ve come to trust us, said Tafolla. They know that they can get nonjudgmental, unbiased information from us. They know that we are affordable, and they know that they can get into us whenever they need to.

Tafolla said it will be much more difficult for women to get access to their kind of help.

How 2014's Elections Will Influence 2016's Voting Rights

Voters across the country trying to cast votes in Tuesday’s elections ran into hurdles erected by Republican legislatures, governors and secretaries of state. Along with mechanical glitches and human error — which occurred in states with leaders on both sides of the political spectrum — voters faced new laws and policies that made it harder to vote.

In Alabama, a last-minute decision by the attorney general barred people from using public housing IDs to vote. Voter ID laws in North Carolina and Texas sowed confusion. Georgia lost 40,000 voter registrations, mostly from minorities. In all, the group Election Protection reported receiving 18,000 calls on Election Day, many of them having to do with voter ID laws. The group noted that the flurry of calls represented “a nearly 40 percent increase from 13,000 calls received in 2010.”

In the presidential election year of 2016, it looks unlikely that those problems will subside — especially if Congress fails to restore the Voting Rights Act. The two states that had the closest vote tallies in the last presidential election — Florida and Ohio — will go into the presidential election year with Republicans controlling the offices of governor and secretary of state and holding majorities in their state legislatures.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who won reelection yesterday, will be able to appoint a secretary of state and will enjoy the support of a veto-proof Republican majority in the state House.

In Ohio, controversial Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted won reelection on Tuesday, along with Gov. John Kasich. They’ll be able to work with a strengthened GOP majority in the state legislature.

In North Carolina, where a Republican legislature and governor have cracked down on voting rights, the GOP held onto its majority. Republican secretary of state candidates in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Nevada also won elections yesterday.

Two influential elections for voting rights also took place in states unlikely to be presidential swing states. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national ringleader for advocates of restrictive voting laws, won reelection. In Arizona, which has been working with Kansas to defend their states' respective tough voting requirements, Republican candidate Michele Reagan also won her contest.

One exception to the trend is Pennsylvania, where Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who backed a harsh voter ID law that has since been struck down in the courts, lost to voting rights supporter Tom Wolf. Although Wolf will contend with a Republican majority in the state legislature, he will be able to appoint a secretary of the commonwealth.

Laurence White: With Houston Subpoenas, Satan Has Finally 'Tipped His Hand'

Laurence White, pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, was the guest on today's broadcast of "WallBuilders Live" where, predictably, the controversy over the city government having subpoenaed documents, including sermons, from a few local pastors came up for discussion.

White remarked that by issuing these subpoenas, which have since been withdrawn, Satan had finally "tipped his hand."

"What's happening is The Adversary, in his arrogance and his pride, has become so bold that he's tipped his hand," White said. "He's usually the great masquerader who hides his real goal, bit in this case, he made the mistake of revealing his true agenda."

This is not a political debate, White declared, but rather proof that the "godless humanism of the religion that has come to predominate throughout our culture" believes itself to be so powerful that it can now openly seek to destroy Christianity.

"Christians may finally begin to recognize how much is at stake here and what we stand to lose," White hoped. "This is about the integrity of our faith as Christians":

Rick Perry, Ron Johnson And Jeff Sessions To Join Anti-Muslim Activists At Florida Beach Resort Confab

FrontPageMag editor and increasingly unhinged anti-Obama yeller David Horowitz is hosting his annual “Restoration Weekend” for anti-Muslim activists at a beach resort in Florida this month. This year, Horowitz has recruited an impressive slate of Republican politicians, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine to partake in the event’s offerings of golf, spa treatments, and Muslim-bashing.

Joining the GOP politicians at the Palm Beach weekend will be anti-Muslim activists including the Family Research Council’s Jerry BoykinJihadWatch’s Robert SpencerNational Review columnist Andrew McCarthy and, as Horowitz announced this weekend on Newsmax, far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Conservative pundits Ann Coulter, Michael Reagan and Ben Shapiro will also be at the event, according to its website, along with FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe, Heritage Foundation economics chief Stephen Moore and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberly Strassel.

Horowitz organizes and funds the annual Restoration Weekend through his David Horowitz Freedom Center — attendees pay between $1,750 and $20,000, but the group’s most recent available tax return shows the 2012 event didn’t even break even. At past events, Horowitz has attracted GOP luminaries including Sen. Ted Cruz, former Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Steve King and Rep. Michele Bachmann. All apparently undeterred by their host’s record of anti-Muslim extremism, including accusing former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and Republican anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist (whose wife is Muslim) of being secret Muslim Brotherhood agents.

In just the past year, Horowitz’s commentary has moved even further to the fringe. As the Justice Department launched an investigation of the shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri, this summer, Horowitz accused Attorney General Eric Holder of leading a black “lynch mob.” A day earlier, Horowitz said he was “sure” President Obama was secretly a Muslim because “he’s a pretend Christian in the same way he’s a pretend American.”

Such anti-Obama conspiracy theories have a welcome place at Horowitz’s Restoration Weekends. At last year’s event, for instance, Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona agreed with Robert Spencer’s statement that President Obama is either a secret Muslim or just acting like one:

Wilders, who has spoken at past Horowitz-affiliated events, including at least one Restoration Weekend, is currently on a U.S. tour that included lunch at the Capitol with Bachmann. Wilders, one of the most fiercely anti-Islam voices in Europe has compared the Quran to Mein Kampf and this year lost some prominent members of his own party when he targeted Moroccans living in the Netherlands to stir up support before the European elections.

Houston Pastors Say America Is Becoming A Police State Like Cuba and Vietnam

Last night's "I Stand Sunday" rally opened with remarks from some of the Houston pastors who had their sermons subpoenaed by the government as part of the lawsuit seeking to overturn the city's nondiscrimination ordinance, with pastors from Cuba and Vietnam warning that America was now falling under tyranny, just like the nations they had fled.

Magda Hermida declared that she and her husband had fled Cuba's police state because their rights to free speech and free exercise of religion were oppressed by the government only to discover that now the same thing is happening in America.

"This mayor wants to use her power to see the sermon of our pastor and use them against us," she said. "The police state this creates is that same that my husband and I experienced in Cuba."

Khanh Huynh echoed that statement, declaring that he and millions of others had fled Vietnam because "the freedom of speech and freedom of religion were among the first to be lost in Vietnam and now I'm facing the same marching boot of tyranny right here where I live."

Finally, Willie Davis railed against the city's nondiscrimination ordinance, asking "how can you call something right when it's all wrong" and declaring that since the city had no problem with anti-gay discrimination, the ordinance has ended up needlessly dividing the city because gay rights is not a civil rights issue.

"I'm deeply offended simply by this ordinance," Davis stated, because "it piggy-backs on the 1964 Civil Rights Act which has nothing to do with this [issue]." With the crowd giving him a standing ovation, Davis declared that they will continue to fight against this ordinance until it is repealed "for we know it's what's right in the sight of God":

John Roberts, Calling Strikes and Strikes

Allowing Texas to enforce a voter ID law found to be intentionally discriminatory suggests the "umpire" takes sides.
PFAW Foundation

Rafael Cruz: Voters Are 'Disobeying God' By Failing To Elect 'Righteous' Politicians

In an interview last month with Religious Right radio host Glenn Pav, Sen. Ted Cruz’s father and frequent campaign surrogate Rafael Cruz warned that God is going to punish evangelical pastors who don’t turn out their congregations to vote for “righteous” candidates.

After discussing how God told him that He would hold pastors accountable for low election turnout among evangelical Christians, Cruz warned that God would fault pastors for their supposed silence on Supreme Court decisions blocking school-sponsored prayer, which he said led to spikes in teen pregnancy and violent crime, and securing abortion rights.

“If the righteous are not voting, if the righteous are not even running for office, what is left is the wicked electing the wicked,” he said. “I mean, it’s our fault. It’s our fault because the people of God are not engaged in the process.”

He lamented that unlike anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christians in the U.S. today are “not even speaking out against the evil that is all around us” but are instead “acquiescing because of fear” and “excusing everything because of political correctness.”

Citing a fallacious David Barton story about Congress printing a Bible to use as a school textbook in the early days of the republic, Cruz said America’s downward slide began with the Supreme Court decisions barring government-organized prayer in public schools. “But the travesty, the tragic thing is the Church remained silent after those two decisions,” he said.

“The consequence of that silence was that those two decisions caused, number one, teen pregnancy to skyrocket after 1963, as did violent crime,” he added.

“How long are we going to remain silent?” he asked. “But the more important question, Glenn, is, is God going to hold us accountable for that silence?”

Later in the program, Cruz shared his views on America’s “divinely inspired” founding.

“I am absolutely convinced, Glenn, that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were divinely inspired documents,” he said. “They were written on the knees of the Framers. These were men of God seeking revelation from God, and that’s what they got.”

He argued that previous governments were set up so that “authority flows from God to the government to the people,” leading to monarchy and tyranny. But at the beginning of America, he said, “God gave them a different model and the model God gave the Framers is authority flows from God to the people to the government.”

“And so with that authority comes the responsibility for We the People to elect righteous leaders. And people in the Church need to understand, if we fail that responsibility to elect righteous leaders, we are disobeying God.”

Ted Cruz: Anti-Gay Civil Disobedience May Be Needed To Resist Alinskyite Democrats

Conservative talk show host Steve Deace has been focusing his program over the last couple weeks on what he calls the “rainbow jihad” of gay rights, in particular the situation in Houston involving a lawsuit filed by Religious Right activists attempting to take down the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. On his program yesterday, Deace welcomed the self-appointed star of the Houston dust-up, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who told him that pro-equality Democratic lawmakers are waging an Alinsky-inspired plot to silence dissent and that anti-gay conservatives may soon have to resort to civil disobedience.

“The problem is the modern Democratic Party, the professional politician, whether it is Democratic senators in Washington or whether it is the mayor or the city council members in the city of Houston, they have gotten so extreme that their objective is not to win an argument but it is instead to try to silence dissent and to crush and destroy anyone they deem to be their political opponent,” Cruz said.

“You know, Saul Alinsky, who both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton studied carefully, Saul Alinsky said you never want to debate your opponent because it humanizes them,” he continued. “Instead you simply want to silence them. And that is the reality of the modern Democratic party, the elected politicians.”

Later in the interview, Deace asked Cruz if “we are coming to the point” where anti-gay conservatives will have to participate in “organized civil disobedience” like that of the civil rights movement.

“Well, listen, if government tries to silence pastors, if government tries to force believers to violate their faith, it is my hope that believers honor their faith and disregard unjust edicts from government,” Cruz responded.

Beck: Houston Subpoena Flap Is 'More Dangerous Than Anything I Have Ever Seen'

For the time being, Glenn Beck appears to have moved on from his increasingly panic-stricken rants about the threat posed by Ebola and has now turned his attention instead to the situation in which five Houston-area pastors were subpoenaed as part of a lawsuit against the city for rejecting petitions challenging a local anti-discrimination ordinance.

Beck interviewed one of those pastors on his radio program today, during which he declared that this case is the most dangerous thing he has ever seen.

"This is more dangerous to the Republic of Texas than Ebola is," Beck said. "This is more dangerous than anything I have ever seen."

Calling on religious leaders and laypersons from all over America to rise up in opposition to this, Beck said that "this is the most dangerous thing I have seen and we are becoming openly hostile to God. It doesn't end well when a nation like ours does that."

Ted Cruz, the Houston Hype, and the Dishonesty of the Anti-Equality Movement

Conservative religious leaders have a long track record of hyping supposed threats to religious liberty in America  specifically, to the religious liberty of conservative Christians. In fact, portraying Christians as a persecuted minority under siege by anti-freedom LGBT activists and secular humanists has become the right's primary strategy for reversing the advance of equality in America. But even in the long context of crying wolf over threats to religious freedom, Sen. Ted Cruz and his religious right allies have set new records for dishonest hype in their response to this week's controversy over subpoenas sent to a few religious leaders in Houston.

Cruz told the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody that there is a "real risk" that preachers will be hauled off to jail for preaching against homosexuality, recycling an old and equally ludicrous charge that hate crimes laws would result in pastors being dragged from the pulpit.

Some in the media ridicule that threat saying there is no danger of the government coming after pastors. That is the usual response." But he adds: "The specter of government trying to determine if what pastors preach from the pulpit meets with the policy views or political correctness of the governing authorities, that prospect is real and happening now.

Cruz is lying. And he has lots of company promoting the Houston hype. Todd Starnes of Fox News charged, "There is a war over religious liberty in Houston, Texas." The Family Research Council's Ken Blackwell said it smacked of totalitarianism and said it suggested that it was "a domestic version of the terrorists outside of our country" who think "America is evil." Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, declared, "This is how religious liberty dies."

As exciting as it is to hear the alarm bells and read the hyperventilating emails, the truth is far less dramatic. Sorry, Sen. Cruz, but the government is not policing sermons for political correctness. It's not going to start tossing anti-gay preachers in jail.

So what is the real story?

The immediate cause of the ruckus was a subpoena sent by attorneys for the city of Houston to several pastors who had been active in opposition to the city's new anti-discrimination law. Conservatives ran a signature-gathering campaign to put the law before the voters, but city attorneys ruled that so many of the signatures were not valid that the effort did not qualify for the ballot.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Religious Right law firm, stepped in and sued the city over that decision. As part of the discovery process in the lawsuit, attorneys for the city sent subpoenas to five prominent pastors asking for sermons and other communications they had about the ordinance, the signature gathering effort, and the controversy over homosexuality and gender identity.

Here's the problem. The subpoena was sent to pastors who are not party to the lawsuit, and it asked for some materials that do not seem directly relevant to the determination of whether signatures were collected in accordance with the law. By giving pundits something to scream about, the subpoena was a gift to Religious Right leaders and their political allies, who thrive on promoting the myth of anti-Christian religious persecution in the U.S. And they have run with it.

On Friday the city narrowed the scope of their discovery request somewhat. And it's entirely possible that a judge will further limit the amount of materials the city can collect in the Religious Right's lawsuit. That's how our legal system works.

It's terribly inconvenient to the Religious Right's narrative that progressive religious leaders are among those who have criticized the Houston attorneys' subpoena. Among those who criticized the city's subpoena as troubling and overly intrusive were supporters of LGBT equality and church-state separation. Baptists of all stripes weighed in. Both progressive religious leaders and atheists publicly agreed. Even the ACLU! So much for the supposed enemies of religious freedom.

Even some religious conservatives have denounced the Houston hype. In reality, the entire episode undermines right-wing claims that religious liberty is hanging by a thread in America. Indeed, it demonstrates that Religious liberty is widely respected as a core constitutional principle and a fundamental American value — by people across the religious landscape and our fractured political spectrum. If only Ted Cruz and his allies were as committed to the constitutional and legal equality of Houston's, and America's, LGBT citizens.

This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post. 

Richard Land: Houston Subpoenas Foretell True LGBT 'Agenda'

In an interview with Newsmax yesterday, former Southern Baptist Convention public policy chief Richard Land reacted to the controversy over subpoenas issued to Houston pastors , warning that the incident is a harbinger of a future shaped by the gay “agenda” in which pastors will be prosecuted under unconstitutional hate speech laws.

“Are you afraid at some point that your sermons are going to have to be dictated?” the Newsmax host asked Land.

“Well, I think that there’s certainly the danger that they’re going to try to make any biblical reference to homosexuality hate speech,” Land responded.

He added: “I think that this is a warning. This is an overreach by a group that, let’s make no mistake about it, their agenda from the beginning has been not only to have their lifestyle tolerated but to have it affirmed and have it paraded before our children as normal and healthy and to marginalize anyone who disagrees with that to the level of being Klansmen. They want to turn us into Klansmen.”

FRC's Ken Blackwell: Houston Pastor Subpoenas Stem From 'Domestic Version Of The Terrorists Outside Our Country'

The Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell, formerly the secretary of state of Ohio, was a guest on FRC’s “Washington Watch” program yesterday, where the exclusive topic was, of course, the subpoenas of a number of pastors in Houston.

“There are two things throughout human history that welfare states, totalitarian states, utilitarian states have done to maintain their control and to force their worldview on all who are under their governance, and that is they have destroyed the family and they have silenced the church,” Blackwell told guest host Craig James.

The Houston subpoenas, he said, are part of “the big welfare state’s attempt to silence the church, to marginalize the church, to silence Christians so that they can actually concentrate power on reshaping not only their cities, their towns, their states, but also the country.”

He then urged Christians to speak out or else “buy into a domestic version of the terrorists outside of our country” who think “America is evil.”

Conservative Christians must fight back against the “political powers that ride roughshod over us when we relegate ourselves to the sidelines and fall into silence in the face of this sort of abuse of power and cultural attack on what has made us not only the freest country in all of human history, the most prosperous country in all of human history, but has also made us the most diverse country in all of human history,” he said. “So for folks to buy into this ‘blame America first,’ ‘America is evil,’ to buy into a domestic version of the terrorists outside of our country is ridiculous and cannot stand.”

Elsewhere in the program, Blackwell called the subpoenas “a blatant attempt to criminalize Christianity” and alleged that city officials are “engaging in a good, old-fashioned inquisition.”

“Just as the inquisition of old, it wasn’t arrested until good people overtook evil,” he added.

Ted Cruz Agrees Pastors May Soon Be 'Hauled Off to Jail For A Hate Crime'

Sen. Ted Cruz has, unsurprisingly, positioned himself right in the center of the Religious Right’s latest cause celebre, a lawsuit in Houston in which attorneys working for the city subpoenaed materials from local pastors, including copies of their sermons.

City officials have distanced themselves from the subpoenas, issued by pro-bono lawyers defending the city in a dispute over petitions for a referendum to repeal the city’s antidiscrimination ordinance, with Mayor Annise Parker calling their scope “overly broad.” But that hasn’t stopped activists and politicians like Cruz from jumping on the case to claim that all their dire warnings about gay rights leading pastors being thrown in jail are coming true. (An extra element of the case is the fact that Parker is openly gay, which groups like the American Family Association have been quick to note.)

Cruz joined pastors and Religious Right activists at a press conference in Houston yesterday, and in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody today said that all his warnings about the persecution of Christians in America have come to fruition.

When Brody asked Cruz if “we very well soon go through a period where pastors are hauled off to jail for a hate crime because they are speaking for traditional marriage,” Cruz agreed, saying, I think that is a real risk and you and I have both pointed to that risk in the past.”

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