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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 right direction.”


  • 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 constitutional amendment.


  • 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.



School Boards Electing Trustees In May


Elections 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 web site:


Religion Being Pushed On American Soldiers


The 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.


The 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


"Women who’ve had abortions go into lesbianism.”


Margaret Hotze, testifying at Texas House committee hearing on Defense of Marriage Act and act to regulate abortion, 3-17-03, quoted in Houston Chronicle


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