August 2001 Issue #77
Let Freedom Ring Launches Web Site
Let Freedom Ring now has a web site. It is letfreedomringtx.tripod.com
The site has links to web sites of national, state and local religious right organizations, legal advocacy groups, and groups that support church-state separation and/or are targets of the religious right, of government branches and legislators, of political parties, and of sources of information about candidates and government. It lists the name and contact information of Houston-area state and federal legislators and of other elected officials. The site has tips on how to become involved in opposing the religious right and publications of Let Freedom Ring, including a statement endorsed by community leaders opposing any effort to weaken or violate the right of religious freedom or to impose religious belief on state institutions. Past newsletters and headlines from current newsletters will be posted on the site. (Members will continue receiving the current newsletter directly.)
Let Freedom Ring hopes to post information on local events and activities that educate Houstonians about the religious right or their agenda or activate those who are opposed to the religious right and who favor separation of church and state, individual liberty, and freedom of expression. Please send information about such items to Let Freedom Ring at the addresses or numbers listed at the end of this newsletter.
Houston City Council Adopts Anti-Discrimination Ordinance
Houston’s City Council adopted an ordinance barring discrimination in city employment on the basis of sexual orientation and other specified factors. The vote came a month after the Texas Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Council Member Rob Todd and religious right activist Richard Hotze challenging Mayor Lee Brown’s issuance of a nondiscrimination executive order in 1998. Council Members Mark Ellis, Orlando Sanchez, Bruce Tatro, and Rob Todd voted against the law. Mark Goldberg was absent. A petition drive to overturn the ordinance is underway.
Montgomery County Group Seeks "Godly Men" To Take Over County GOP
A Montgomery County group that wants to “encourage godly men to seek office” has announced its formation of a political action committee to back primary candidates that will strictly adhere to the state party’s platform, the Houston Chronicle reported. The group, the Republican Leadership Council, Inc., also hopes to take control over the local party, including the chairmanship of the county party and precincts. The long-time county chair said he has avoided becoming involved in ideological issues so as not to split the party and discourage voter turnout.
Reports From Area School Districts
The superintendent of Ft. Bend I.S.D. for the past five years, Don Hooper, retired this year. Hooper is a devout member of an evangelical Christian church. During his tenure, some residents felt that the administration condoned improper religious activities in Ft. Bend schools. At least one school board member expects that the change in superintendents will likely bring a change in the perception of what is acceptable and that such incidents will not be tolerated as they may have been in the past.
The retirement in June of the superintendent of Humble I.S.D., Dr. Michael Say, could also bring change. Let Freedom Ring’s Humble school “bored” monitor reports that school board meetings have been quiet there since the religious right “crawled back under their rocks.” The religious right’s influence is not gone, however. Sexuality education is still abstinence-based and teachers still will not say “evolution” but skirt around it and use the “E word.”
Religious Right Agenda In Congress
The House passed President Bush’s faith-based legislation (H.R. 7) by 233 to 198. Representatives DeLay, Culberson, and Brady voted “aye.” Bentsen, Green, Jackson-Lee, Lampson, and Paul voted “no.”
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said it is unlikely the Senate will consider the plan this year. Senate Democrats are concerned about the exemption of groups that receive federal funds from state and local anti-discrimination laws. Sen. Joseph Lieberman reported that Bush indicated in a meeting that he understands that the exemption is problematic and he is not going to fight to keep it.
Marvin Olasky, who is credited with inspiring Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” and is editor of the conservative Christian publication WORLD, wrote a revealing article in WORLD about the House debate over the bill. Some of those Olasky interviewed for the story told him they were explaining their tactics to him “because they were tired of being portrayed in WORLD as having given away the store.” Asked about H.R. 7's mandate to separate the "religious" and "nonreligious" parts of programs, a “TeamBush” insider said the author of that provision is a “master at writing vague language” and that biblical and secular teaching could be interwoven, "as long as you do it right and keep separate books." Olasky wrote that White House officials and others close to Bush “rejoiced” at having inserted without attracting much attention a provision to direct the disbursement of some funds in the form of vouchers given to the needy. Olasky’s article is at worldmag.com/world/issue/08-04-01/cover_1.asp
The House passed by 265-162 the Human Cloning Prohibition Act (H.R.2505). Brady, Culberson, DeLay, and Green voted for it; Bentsen, Jackson-Lee, Lampson, and Paul voted against it. The House first rejected an amendment that would have outlawed cloning to initiate a pregnancy but allowed cloning for medical research. Bentsen, Green, Jackson-Lee, and Lampson voted for the amendment; Brady, Culberson, DeLay, and Paul voted against it.
Texas Christian Coalition Announces “New Era”
The Texas Christian Coalition (TXCC) has changed its leadership but remains relatively strong, even as the national group has suffered setbacks and waning influence. The TXCC named Norm Mason of Sugar Land chair and Mike Hannesschlager executive director, replacing Dick Weinhold and Chuck Anderson, respectively. Weinhold, state chair since 1991, will remain on the Christian Coalition of America board of directors.
The group claims it distributed 2 million voter guides last year. Hannesschlager told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram that the chapter has a 175,000-person mailing list and, the Star-Telegram said, reported to the IRS that it raised $180,000 in 2000. The TXCC is still influential in the state Republican Party, although it did not have much success during the legislative session. Mason acknowledged that, to retain influence in Texas, the TXCC must gain support from the growing population of minorities, especially Hispanics.
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