The Texas state chapter of David Lane’s extremist American Renewal Project is set to host Sen. Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott, the state attorney general and GOP gubernatorial nominee, at a “Pastors’ Policy Briefing” next month. Cruz has also addressed the group’s chapters in Iowa and South Carolina, two early primary states.
Mike Huckabee, who like Cruz has also floated the possibility of running for president in 2016, will also appear at the event.
The Texas Freedom Network points out that at a Texas “Pastors’ Policy Briefing” in 2005, Dwight McKissic said that God used Hurricane Katrina “to purify our nation” from gay people.
Joining Cruz and Abbott will include Religious Right favorites including American Family Association founder Don Wildmon; pseudo-historian and anti-gay activist David Barton; anti-gay preacher Ken Graves; right-wing conspiracy theorist William Federer and Laurence White, who believes God is about to destroy America.
Just last week, Dr. Steve Hotze made news for sending out a Republican Party fundraising letter in which he declared that "our Founding Fathers would be furious to find out that the Constitution was being interpreted to allow sodomites to marry."
This sort of rhetoric is not at all surprising coming from someone like Hotze, who was responsible for anti-gay mailings that attacked Houston mayor Annise Parker and who believes that "medical problems are frequently caused by personal sin":
Hotze was able to better articulate his views in 1986, when he was one of dozens of ministers, professionals and laypersons who signed the Coalition on Revival's Manifesto for the Christian Church. The coalition claims on its Web site to be a national network of religious leaders aligned in a mission "to help the Church rebuild civilization on the principles of the Bible so God's will may be done on earth as it is in heaven." They want all aspects of life -- government, science and education -- to adhere to fundamental biblical beliefs. These beliefs include the following:
• A wife may work outside the home only with her husband's consent
• "Biblical spanking" that results in "temporary or superficial bruises or welts" should not be considered a crime
• No doctor shall provide medical service on the Sabbath
• All disease and disability is caused by the sin of Adam and Eve
• Medical problems are frequently caused by personal sin
• "Increased longevity generally results from obedience to specific Biblical commands"
• Treatment of the "physical body" is not a doctor's highest priority
• Doctors have a priestly calling
• People receiving medical treatment are not immune from divine intervention or demonic forces
• Physicians should preach to their patients because salvation is the key to their health
So naturally, when Hotze was in Washington, DC last week, he was invited to have a personal meeting with Sen. John Cornyn to discuss Cornyn's support for Hotze's lawsuit against Obamacare:
Yesterday, Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach suffered a double setback when the Supreme Court refused to hear appeals of decisions striking down two local anti-immigrant ordinances that Kobach had written and shepherded through the courts. Now, both towns are facing the possibility of paying legal fees for opponents on top of years of legal costs that they had already incurred.
Kobach was behind an ordinance in Farmers Branch, Texas, that required people to prove they were in the country legally in order to rent a home and one in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that would have penalized people who rent to or employ undocumented immigrants. Both ordinances were struck down by federal courts, and neither town succeeded in appealing those decisions to the Supreme Court.
In August, the Dallas Morning News reported that Farmers Branch, a town of 29,000 people, had already spent $6 million defending the law since it was first passed in 2006, and expected to pay $2 million in legal fees for its opponents if it lost in the courts. The town has already been forced to cut back in other areas of its budget in order to keep up with the costs of defending the ordinance, despite a $500,000 contribution from real estate heir Trammell Crow.
Meanwhile, Hazleton reported last year that it had spent nearly $500,000 on legal fees since 2006, financed mostly from donations from an online fundraising campaign, along with a $50,000 gift from Crow. But the Hazleton Standard Speaker reports today that the city’s legal defense fund has dried up and it’s facing the possibility of paying millions of dollars in legal fees for civil rights groups that challenged the law. The town of 25,000 faces these costs on top of a pension fund deficit of over $28 million.
Even Kobach-backed ordinances that fare better in the courts can still present huge costs for cities that take up his anti-immigrant crusade. Residents of Fremont, Nebraska, voted last month to keep a similar Kobach-written anti-immigrant ordinance after it was upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Since the ordinance was first passed in 2010, the town raised its property taxes in order to set aside $1.5 million to pay legal fees and implementation costs; the town also risks losing millions of dollars in future federal grants.
While Kobach uses small cities to push his anti-immigrant experiments, those cities are forced to foot the bill as they work through the courts. The cities sometimes even pay for Kobach's services. The Southern Poverty Law Center noted in 2011 that "Kobach has said that he normally charges about $50,000 a year to defend his ordinances against legal challenges. He described that rate as under market and said he wants to ensure 'the cities can afford it.'"
States that push Kobach's harsh anti-immigrant laws have also faced enormous costs. Arizona spent millions of dollars defending SB1070 before it was ultimately largely struck down by the Supreme Court, and lost an estimated $23 million in tax revenue and $350 in direct spending from a resulting economic boycott.
Kobach’s home state is hardly immune from this either – state election officials are now facing the possibility of having to set up a dual elections system in which 15,000 voters caught up in Kobach’s voter ID plan will be allowed to vote only in federal elections – a costly bureaucratic nightmare.
Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values, who has called this week’s marriage equality ruling in Texas a “hollow victory,” yesterday called it “one of the most egregious forms of judicial activism of our generation.” “The federal judiciary is out of control,” Saenz told Family Research Council head Tony Perkins on yesterday’s edition of Washington Watch.
He promised that there would be an “epic battle” to defeat marriage equality in Texas.
Similarly irate, Perkins said that judges and the Obama administration believe they can “tear away at the foundation of the rule of law” when it comes to the issue of marriage equality, which he warned will lead to “anarchy” and a “breakdown of society altogether.”
Robert Jeffress was interviewed yesterday about the decision by a federal judge striking down Texas' same-sex marriage ban. Not surprisingly, he did not agree with the ruling, declaring that there is no such thing as a constitutional right to marry, which is why siblings are not allow to marry one another.
It was God who created the institution of marriage to be between one man and one woman, Jeffress stated, warning that America will not survive if it continues to condone "what God has condemned."
"As an American," he said, "I also realize that no nation can survive that condones what God has condemned. And God has condemned homosexuality, just like he does adultery or per-marital sex, as being wrong and, as a nation, we cannot be blessed by God if we're rejecting God":
Oddly, we don't see a lot of Religious Right activists leading efforts to outlaw adultery and per-marital sex or make it legal to discriminate against people on such grounds.
WASHINGTON – In response to a federal judge striking down Texas’ ban on marriage for same-sex couples, People For the American Way Foundation president Michael Keegan issued the following statement:
“Today’s ruling is one more strong point in an argument that’s getting clearer and clearer every day: this ain’t the Texas of old.
“In my native Texas and across the nation, Americans are increasingly coming to see that blocking committed couples from the responsibilities and protections of civil marriage causes real, and needless, harm to families. More and more people are coming to the same conclusion: banning same-sex couples from getting married is unfair, dangerous and contrary to the core principles of our Constitution.”
In another win for the marriage equality movement, today U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia struck down Texas’ ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The judge wrote that "Texas' current marriage laws deny homosexual couples the right to marry, and in doing so, demean their dignity for no legitimate reason.”
The Washington Post reports:
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia did not say gay marriages could be performed immediately. Instead, he stayed the decision, citing a likely appeal.
"Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution," Garcia wrote in his decision. "These Texas laws deny Plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex."
Similar bans have been struck down in states across the country – most recently in Virginia less than two weeks ago. Today’s victory in a state with a whopping 26 million residents brings us one important step closer to nationwide marriage equality.
PFAW’s 2012 report, “Predatory Privatization: Exploiting Financial Hardship, Enriching the One Percent, Undermining Democracy,” included a section titled, “The Pernicious Private Prison Industry.” We reported that across the country, private prisons were often violent, poorly run facilities that put prisoners, employees and communities at risk even while failing to deliver on promised savings to taxpayers. But state legislators, encouraged by ALEC and by private prison interests’ lobbying and campaign expenditures, continued to turn prisons over to private corporations, often with contract provisions that acted as incentives for mass incarceration.
A new story in Politico Magazine, “The Private Prison Racket” comes to the same conclusions. “Companies that manage prisons on our behalf have abysmal records,” says author Matt Stroud. “So why do we keep giving them our business?”
The Politico story slams “bed mandates” – guarantees given by states to private companies to keep prisons full. Contracts like that build in incentives for governments to lock people up – and punish states financially when they try to reduce prison populations.
Politicians are taking notice. Last month, In the Public Interest reported that reality has turned the tide against private prisons: “Coast-to-coast, governments are realizing that outsourcing corrections to for-profit corporations is a bad deal for taxpayers, and for public safety.” The dispatch cited problems with private prisons in states as diverse as Arizona, Vermont, Texas, Florida, and Idaho, where Gov. Butch Otter, a “small government” conservative, announced last month that the state would take control of the Idaho Correctional Center back from private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America due to rampant violence, understaffing, gang activity, and contract fraud.
But the huge private prison industry is not going away anytime soon. As In the Public Interest notes:
All of this momentum does not suggest the imminent death of the for-profit prison industry. Some states, including California and West Virginia, are currently gearing up to send millions more to these companies. But the past year has been a watershed moment, and we are heading in the right direction. In light of these developments, these states would be wise to look to sentencing reform to reduce populations, rather than signing reckless outsourcing contracts.
The arguments against private prisons are myriad and compelling. Promised savings end up as increased costs. Lockup quotas force taxpayers to guarantee profits for prison companies through lock up quotas hidden in contracts. They incentivize mass incarceration while discouraging sentencing reform in an era when crime rates are plummeting.
But more than anything else, the reality of the disastrous private prison experiment has turned the public against the industry.
In a 2012 campaign speech for his son, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Rafael Cruz warned that President Obama was pushing for gun violence prevention laws in order to “impose a dictatorship upon us.”
“They are trying to take our God and our guns,” he said in the speech, which was uploaded to YouTube in July 2012. “And if they do that, then they can impose a dictatorship upon us.”
Cruz also pushed the conspiracy theory that the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty would “impose a ban on guns.”
The Family Research Council is deeply troubled that Democrats have the gall to try to win elections in the state of Texas. On Washington Watch yesterday, FRC senior fellow Kenneth Blackwell said that President Obama is “trying to keep the border of Texas very open and porous” to allow undocumented immigrants to enter the state so they can vote Democratic, even though they are not US citizens and therefore cannot vote.
Blackwell even tied this “very disturbing” Democratic conspiracy to the lawsuit against the Texas voter ID law, a measure that would bar the 1.4 million Texas voters who lack a photo ID from voting.
“There’s a confluence of events and activities that taken as a group paints a very disturbing picture,” Blackwell told host Tony Perkins.
“Think about Texas and think about how the left is now trying to keep the border of Texas very open and porous and so you look at the number of illegals who are crossing the lines and now you have folks trying to make it easier—they’re fighting Texas in court to make voter ID illegal in Texas -- all of the sudden you see non-registered, non-legal citizens coming over the border, you see this effort by field organizers to get data on folks, making it very easy for them to mobilize those voters on Election Day.”
Of course, Blackwell’s argument is completely bogus. The Texas voter ID law would do extremely little to curtail voter fraud. The Dallas Morning News found last year that of the mere 66 people in Texas charged with voting irregularities since 2004, just “four cases involved someone illegally casting a ballot at a polling place where a picture ID would have prevented it.”
Blackwell also made a patently false claim about Obama’s handling of the US-Mexico border, as the number of border patrol agents on the southern border has grown to record highs since Obama came into office:
Texas Republican congressman Steve Stockman, in his primary challenge to Sen. John Cornyn, has displayed a pretty loose relationship with the truth, from his easily disprovable denial that he was once arrested for felony drug possession to the very premise of his campaign, that Cornyn, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, is actually a liberal.
In an interview with WorldNetDaily published today, Stockman – apparently unfazed by recent criticism – continues to push his fuzzy version of the truth. First, he claims that Cornyn’s conservatism can’t be trusted because he “only sounds like a conservative.” “Wendy Davis sounds like a conservative,” Stockman observeds and “Obama sounded like a conservative when he was running.” Stockman also repeats his claim that Cornyn , who voted several times against the Affordable Care Act, actually supports it, and that the health care law is “going to absolutely destroy our nation.”
Stockman said that the GOP actually lost seats when Cornyn was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee because he doesn’t advocate a conservative agenda. The congressman said the senator only sounds like a conservative when he runs for re-election.
“Even though his ads say he is a conservative, (Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Wendy Davis sounds like a conservative. Obama sounded like a conservative when he was running, if you actually listened to the rhetoric. But we have to look at his voting record and his positions. And it is abundantly clear that they are different than the mainstream conservative values.”
Illustrating his point, Stockman said “A vote for Cornyn is a vote for Obamacare.”
The congressman said Cornyn has supported Obamacare numerous times in the false notion that it’s going to help the Republican Party, adding, “That’s going to absolutely destroy our nation.”
Later in the interview, Stockman repeats his claim that he singlehandedly stopped both immigration reform and a gun violence prevention law in Congress, which as the Texas Tribune notes, is completely false.
And, he added, they didn’t like that he killed the amnesty bill (Sen. Majority Leader) Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had sent to the House.
“We did what’s called a ‘blue-slip.’ We declared it a tax, which it is because the Supreme Court ruled the fees in the health care bill are taxes. The Senate cannot create or generate any revenue. The Constitution gives that power strictly to the House. The House creates what’s called a blue slip, in that event, and I did that to both the immigration and the gun bills.”
Later this month, a Religious Right gathering is scheduled to take place in Texas called "San Antonio in Black, White, and Brown" which, as the name suggests, is aimed at unifying the White, Black, and Hispanic communities in order to establish a "Biblical worldview" in the city:
David Barton and Harry Jackson will be among the speakers at this event, sharing the stage with several other figures who played high-profile roles in Gov. Rick Perry's Dominionist-dominated "The Response" prayer rally back in 2011, including Doug Stringer and, more interestingly, Alice Patterson of Justice At The Gates.
Patterson not only has deep ties to Perry (so much so that she was welcomed on stage by him during his prayer rally) but has also been working with Barton for years to find ways to convince Black voters to support the Republican Party ... because the Democratic Party is controlled by demons, as we noted when we wrote about her book a few years back:
In fact, Patterson wrote a whole book about it which I have just finished reading called "Bridging the Racial and Political Divide: How Godly Politics Can Transform a Nation" in which mentions how she went to hear Chuck Pierce speak in Louisiana where he preached on "Saul Structures" at which points she realized that the Democratic Party is "an invisible network of evil comprising an unholy structure" that is, quite literally, controlled by demonic forces:
As Chuck described Saul Structures, my thoughts raced to politics. "Oh my God, Chuck is describing the Democratic Party!" This was the first time I'd ever considered that an evil structure could be connected to and empowered by a political party ... One strong fallen angel cannot wreak havoc on an entire nation by himself. He needs a network of wicked forces to restrain the Church and to deceive the masses. Unlike the Holy Spirit, who is everywhere at once and can speak to millions of people simultaneously, the devil can only be in one place at a time. By himself Satan would be totally ineffective, but in cooperation with other powers of darkness he erects structures to deceive and manipulate entire nations ... At the time I was listening to Chuck Pierce in Louisiana, I hadn't given any thought at all to strongholds in political parties. If I had ever thought about it, of course, it would have made sense, but it was new information. As Chuck's words began to sink in, I asked the "Lord, Father, what is the demonic structure behind the Democratic Party?"
Patterson goes on to explain that "the demonic structure behind the Democratic Party" is in fact "the Jezebel structure" which is rooted in long-ago Democratic support for slavery and which remains today because of the party's support for reproductive and gay rights.
Lady Theresa Thombs, the Republican candidate for the Texas State Board of Education who rails against evolution, “socialist higher education” and “Devil worshipers,” today shared a Facebook post calling for “Straight Pride.”
When several commenters mocked her post, Thombs responded that she doesn’t hate gay people and only thinks that gay people are sinners, just like murderers: “We are not bigoted or hateful. Jesus said to love the sinner but hate the sin. God gives you free will to do what you want. But murder is a sin, but even a murderer is loved and forgiven if he asked to be. We both have the right to believe the way we choose is all that I am saying.”
In another Facebook post, Thombs said that people who criticized her attack on evolution at a school board candidate forum are actually trying to take away the right of Christians to speak freely and run for public office.
The Texas Freedom Network wondered “who has argued that Christians ‘have no right to seek public office,’” reminding Thombs that almost all of the candidates for the post are Christian.
At a debate in Fort Worth on Monday, a Republican candidate for the Texas state board of education warned that the board is currently “using your tax dollars to brainwash our children into socialist issues and ideas.”
“We know we didn’t come from monkeys!” she exclaimed.
Thombs made her remarks at a debate hosted by a Tea Party group, the 912 Project Fort Worth.
Bud Kennedy of the Star-Telegram reports that Thombs considers herself an “international evangelist” who is “running to fight — her spellings — ‘adgendas and ideoligies.’”
She also believes she is running to defeat “Devil worshipers”:
The multi-talented Thombs also serves as a singer at right-wing rallies.
Despite our disappointment that pseudo-historian David Barton decided against a run for US Senate in Texas, we are taking solace in the fact that Rep. Steve Stockman announced yesterday that he would challenge Sen. John Cornyn in the Texas GOP primary. Cornyn is hardly a moderate, but Tea Party groups have been itching to oust him.
Stockman’s entry into the race comes just weeks after the Houston Chronicle investigated his murky finances, but the far-right congressman has much more going for him than questionable financial dealings. Here are five of Stockman’s most extreme and outlandish political ploys:
1. Birther & Election Trutherism
It’s no wonder that WorldNetDaily is positively giddy about Stockman’s Senate campaign, as the congressman shares the website’s birther views and has worked with birther activists. Stockman even suggested that President Obama stole the 2012 election, calling it a “scam.”
Stockman endorsed a WorldNetDaily book, “Impeachable Offenses: The Case For Removing Barack Obama From Office,” and even sent copies to every member of Congress. He followed up with WorldNetDaily by telling the pro-impeachment “news” site that he is working with a Religious Right law firm to investigate President Obama and make the case for impeachment.
Even before Obama was sworn in for a second term, Stockman floated the idea of impeaching the president for his executive actions targeting gun violence in response to the Sandy Hook massacre, likening the president to Saddam Hussein.
In a letter on behalf of the radical National Association for Gun Rights, Stockman alleged -- completely falsely -- that President Obama is working with the United Nations to implement gun “confiscation on a global scale” and an “international gun registry.” But Stockman’s extremist views don’t end there. “If babies had guns, they wouldn’t be aborted,” he famously quipped on Twitter. He also once organized an AR-15 giveaway.
In July, Stockman teamed up with a group led by a prominent neo-Confederate activist to submit an amicus brief to the Supreme Court challenging the government’s authority to prosecute straw purchases of firearms.
Stockman denounced the 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, from which he wanted to exclude protections for LGBT people: “This is a truly bad bill. This is helping the liberals, this is horrible. Unbelievable. What really bothers — it’s called a women’s act, but then they have men dressed up as women, they count that. Change-gender, or whatever. How is that — how is that a woman?” In an interview with a conservative talk show host, he made fun of transgender women by speaking in a high-pitched voice.
The congressman has said that immigration reform is a tool “to destroy America,” calling the Senate reform bill a “joke” that will “destroy our country” and bring down the GOP. He even claimed that the Senate bill isunconstitutional and insisted [PDF] that the House refuse to vote on any bill regarding immigration.
After NRA board member Ted Nugent threatened the life of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Stockman rewarded him with a ticket to the State of the Union Address.
This afternoon, the Texas State Board of Education gave its final approval to a set of biology textbooks that include scientifically sound teachings about evolution, rebuffing a campaign by creationists to include “biblical principles” in science texts. However, the board delayed its approval of one of the books until a board of experts reviews the complaints of anti-evolutionists.
The Texas Freedom Network, which has been fighting to keep science in the state’s science textbooks, called the vote a “huge win for science education” and noted that “throughout the adoption process, publishers refused to make concessions that would have compromised science instruction on evolution and climate change in their textbooks.” People For the American Way joined TFN earlier this year to deliver 300,000 petitions to the school board urging them to reject attempts to insert creationism into science texts.
Creationists on the school board, in a last-ditch attempt to delay the process, are still holding up one biology book. TFN reported yesterday:
The adoption of the Pearson textbook was held up because an anti-evolution activist appointed to serve as an official state reviewer alleged that it included nearly two dozen factual errors. Some of the alleged “errors” focused on relatively small and almost trivial details — such as whether scientists estimate the age of Earth as 4 billion or 4.2 billion years old. But most dealt with evolution or related concepts and essentially repeated many discredited claims anti-evolution activists have been pushing for decades.
One Republican school board member accused his anti-evolution colleagues of attempting to “hijack” the process by causing the last-minute delay, according to the AP:
Pearson and many other major publishers weren't willing to make suggested major edits and changes, however.
That prompted some of the board's socially conservative members to call for delaying approval of the book because of concerns including how long it took Earth to cool and objection to lessons about natural selection because "selection operates as a selective but not a creative force."
Members outside the socially conservative bloc claimed their colleagues waited until the dead of night to try to impose ideological edits.
"To ask me — a business degree major from Texas Tech University — to distinguish whether the Earth cooled 4 billion years ago or 4.2 billion years ago for purposes of approving a textbook at 10:15 on a Thursday night is laughable," said Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant.
He added: "I believe this process is being hijacked, this book is being held hostage to make political changes."
On Wednesday, an oil and gas industry representative objected to another science textbook’s treatment of the harms of fracking and carbon emissions; she gained some allies on the board, but the board ultimately approved the text.
Back in September, we reported on attempts by non-biologist members of the Texas State Board of Education’s biology-textbook review committee to require textbook publishers to insert “creation science based on biblical principles” into high school textbooks used in the state.
People For the American Way joined a campaign led by the Texas Freedom Network to deliver 300,000 petitions to the state board urging them to keep creationism out of science classes.
The next month, TFN reported that none of the 14 major textbook publishers had bowed to pressure to include biblical lessons in the science textbooks they submitted for review to the school board. But the board of education still has to vote to adopt these textbooks, and as TFN notes, “In past years, ideologues on the state board have refused to adopt textbooks simply because they have political objections to factual content.”
The state board will hold hearings on the issue starting this afternoon, leading up to a final vote on the textbooks on Friday. We’re following along via livestream and TFN’s live blog, but in the meantime you can enjoy this video from September’s hearing of former Texas board of education chairman Don McLeroy explaining that including evolution in biology textbooks will actually “strike the final blow to the teaching of evolution” because students will see through the “weak” scientific argument: