April 2003 Issue #97
Religious Right Agenda in Legislature
The House Public Education Committee
approved by 5-3 a bill (HB 2465) mandating a private school voucher
program in certain Texas school districts. In our area, Houston,
Pasadena, and Alief ISD would be included. Houston-area committee
members Harold Dutton (D-Houston) and Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands)
voted for the bill, while Glenda Dawson (R-Pearland) and Rep. Scott
Hochberg (D-Houston) voted against it.
The Senate adopted a bill (SB 83)
requiring that public school students recite daily the pledges of
allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags and then observe a minute of
silence, during which they may reflect, pray, mediate or engage in any
other nondisruptive silent activity. A House committee has approved a
similar bill (HB 793). The Texas Eagle Forum supports this bill because
“research has clearly shown the decline of school discipline and even
test scores since the judicial activist decision by the U.S. Supreme
Court that rejected school prayer and Bible reading that were historical
mainstays in public school classrooms across America. While this bill
would not return prayer and Bible reading, it would be a step in the
House and Senate committees passed
the Defense of Marriage Act (HB 38 and SB 7), which would bar state
recognition of a same-sex marriage or civil union. This is a top
priority for the religious right. According to the Free Market
Foundation, many attribute its swift progression in the Senate to Lt.
Governor Dewhurst’s making it a top priority of his.
Bills banning human cloning (HB
1175), regulating “informed consent” for abortions (HB 15), and creating
legal penalties for a person who harms or kills a fetus (HB 246, dubbed
the “Prenatal Protection Act) passed out of House committees. Companion
bills (SB 156, 835, and 319) are pending in Senate committees.
What Can I Do?
Contacting your legislator can
make a difference. Explaining his vote against H.B. 2465 in the
House Public Education Committee, Republican Rep. Bob Griggs said,
"The overwhelming majority of communications with residents of
District 91 was against the creation of a voucher system in Texas."
Urge your representative to
vote against HB 2465. The Coalition for Public Schools, which
includes Let Freedom Ring, suggests that you point out that Texas
cannot afford to drain money out of public schools with a vouchers
program. Vouchers would also violate the Texas Constitution. Art.
I, Section 6 states, "No man shall be compelled to … support any
place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent
...and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious
society or mode of worship.” Art. I, Section 7 states: "No money
shall be appropriated, or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of
any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary."
Legislators’ contact information is at
Religious Right Agenda in Congress
Congressman Ernest Istook (R-OK), with Sanford Bishop (D-GA),
has introduced the “Pledge and Prayer Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution
(H.J. Res. 46). It reads: “To secure the people’s right to acknowledge God
according to the dictates of conscience: --The people retain the right to
pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on
public property, including schools. --The United States and the States
shall not establish any official religion nor require any person to join in
prayer or religious activity.” The amendment would permit prayer, the
Pledge of Allegiance, and display of the Ten Commandments on public
property. Opponents charge that it would also allow public schools to
sponsor religious worship. Istook has introduced a similar amendment since
1995. In 1998, a majority voted for it but not the 2/3rds required for a
The Senate adopted the Charity Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment
Act of 2003 or CARE Act (S. 476) by 95-5 after Sen. Santorum, the chief
Senate sponsor of Pres. Bush’s faith-based plan, agreed to the removal of
provisions exempting religious social service providers from
anti-discrimination laws and allowed the funding of social service programs
at sites where religious icons and texts are displayed. The act adopted
mainly creates tax incentives to encourage charitable giving. The bill
approved by the House in 2001 had the omitted provisions. Santorum pledged
to oppose any attempt by the House leadership to include the discrimination
section in a final bill. He also vowed, however, to push to include the
provisions in welfare reform legislation. The director of the White House
Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives noted that Bush has already
implemented the provisions through executive orders.
The first bill filed by freshman Rep. John Carter of Round
Rock is a constitutional amendment stating, “A law that prescribes the
Pledge of Allegiance or provides for United States coins or currency is not
a law respecting an establishment of religion because it refers to God in
the Pledge or includes a reference to God on coins or currency.” H. J. RES.
39 does not have any cosponsors yet. Louisiana Sen. Landrieu introduced a
similar amendment as S. J. RES. 7.
The religious right is criticizing a bill adopted by a House
committee to provide assistance to foreign countries to combat HIV/AIDS
(H.R.1298). They complain that, among other things, it does not emphasize
abstinence over condoms and it allocates $1 billion for the Global AIDS
Fund, a UN group.
Boards Electing Trustees In May
for school board trustees will take place on May 3 in some area districts,
including Alief, Cypress-Fairbanks, Humble, Klein, Pearland, and Spring
Branch. Questions to ask school board candidates, including their stances
on the religious right’s agenda, are posted on Let Freedom Ring’s
Religion Being Pushed On American Soldiers
Miami Herald reported that an army chaplain from Houston has been
offering soldiers in Iraq access to a 500-gallon pool if they agree to
attend a 1½-hour sermon in his tent and be baptized in an hour-long
ceremony. The chaplain was quoted as saying that some of the soldiers, who
have gone weeks without bathing, might just want the opportunity to take a
bath but added, “Regardless of their motives, I get the chance to take them
closer to the Lord.” The Chaplain Corps is investigating the report’s
accuracy. Its spokesperson stressed the corps’ commitment to the free
exercise of religion.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that thousands of US Marines in
Iraq have been given a pamphlet called "A Christian's Duty," a mini-prayer
book that includes a tear-out section to be mailed to the White House
pledging that the soldier who sends it in has been praying for Pres. Bush.
The pamphlet, produced by a group called In Touch Ministries, offers a daily
prayer to be made for Bush.
Quote of the Month
had abortions go into lesbianism.”
Hotze, testifying at Texas House committee hearing on Defense of
Marriage Act and act to regulate abortion, 3-17-03, quoted in
Let Freedom Ring
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