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March 2002           Issue #84

The run-off election will be Tuesday, April 9. 

Early voting will be March 29 - April 5, 2002.



Religious Right Pacs Send Objectionable Election Materials



Montgomery County’s elections administrator and Republican Party chair have charged that a mailer sent by a PAC apparently affiliated with Houston religious right leader Steven Hotze has confused and misled voters.  It contained an application for an absentee ballot for voters over 65 and a sample ballot endorsing particular candidates in the Republican Montgomery County primary.  The brochure was sent by the Conservative Republicans of Texas.  Its design makes it appear that it was sent by the election administrator, Carol Chedsey.  Chedsey said a number of voters had called her office with questions about the mailer, all believing she had sent it.  She said many of the applications sent from the mailer are being rejected because of erroneous information in the mailer and she is concerned that some elderly voters could be disqualified from voting in the primary.  Chedsey said she will file a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission.


A Texas religious right political action committee has sent inflammatory flyers about some Republican legislators running for reelection.  The flyer depicts two men kissing and accuses the candidate of supporting the “radical homosexual agenda” by voting for the hate crimes law.  A flyer accuses the legislator of opening the door “to the teaching of the homosexual ‘lifestyle’ in Texas schools” by “voting to allow morally sensitive material to be given out in the classroom without requiring permission from a parent.”


The flyers were distributed by Free Enterprise PAC, known as Free PAC, which is dedicated to electing and maintaining a conservative majority in the Texas legislature.  Free PAC is “committed to empowering conservative Texans with the tools to defend the bedrock conservative principles of limited government, free enterprise and traditional Judeo/Christian values on which our nation was founded.”  A panel of Texans that included religious right leaders recommended candidates in the GOP primary.  James Leininger of San Antonio, Bo Pilgrim of east Texas, and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst, who is running for lieutenant governor, have been major contributors to Free PAC along with Oliver North and Pat Buchanan.


Religious Right Agenda In Congress

  • Rep. Istook has again introduced a constitutional amendment supporting religious expression on public property (H. J. RES. 81).  He calls it the “School Prayer Amendment.”  It reads:

“Neither the United States nor any State shall establish any official religion, but the people's right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on public property, including schools, shall not be infringed. The United States and the States shall not compose school prayers, nor require any person to join in prayer or other religious activity.”

This version is slightly different than the one Istook introduced in 1997 and 1999 because it does not proscribe discriminating against religion and denying equal access to a benefit on account of religion.  In 1998, a majority in the House voted for it but not the two-thirds required for a constitutional amendment.  It did not come up for a vote in the last session.

Mark Fried of the National Day of Prayer Task Force said the amendment “would solidify citizens' rights to use public venues as a form for religious speech and, more specifically, for prayer."  David Barton of WallBuilders (and vice-chairman of the Republican Party of Texas) said it “would sweep the books of the last 40 years of Supreme Court decisions."

  • The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001 (S. 1899) was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Brownback and was referred to the Judiciary Committee.  It passed the House last July with 265 votes as H.R. 2505.  The religious right has been pushing for a Senate ban since last year and hopes for a vote in March.  They are working to defeat a bill by Sen. Arlen Specter that would ban human cloning while protecting stem cell research (S.1893).

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2001 (S. 1284 and H.R. 2692) seeks to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and prohibit related retaliation and coercion.  It bars quotas and preferential treatment and it exempts religious organizations and the military.  A recent Senate committee hearing sparked denunciation by the religious right.  The Family Research Council charged, "ENDA violates employers' and employees' Constitutional freedoms of religion, speech and association."



President Bush's Proposals Please Religious Right

Late last year, Congress appropriated up to $34 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), $9 million more than President Bush had asked for in his 2002 budget.  The religious right urged Bush to use his authority to "zero fund the UNFPA" because of its alleged support of China's “coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization policies.”  Bush has now done so, opting not to spend the 2002 funds and requesting no money for the UNFPA in his 2003 budget.  UNFPA supporters insist that it provides needed family planning, disease prevention, maternal health and other reproductive health services in developing countries, and the U.S. State Department gave UNFPA $600,000 to assist women fleeing Afghanistan just two months ago.


Bush’s budget plan has a tax credit of up to $2,500 a year that could be used to pay for a child’s religious schooling.  The credit would apply to tuition, books, computers, transportation, and supplies at a public, private, or home school for a child whose own public school is considered to be failing. 


The religious right praised proposals in President Bush’s welfare reform package to increase funding for promoting marriage and teaching abstinence only in sexuality education.  He would spend up to $300 million on programs that encourage marriage, such as premarital education and counseling, public education about the benefits of marriage, and research into new ways to bolster marriage.  Bush also wants to raise spending on abstinence only programs by $33 million to $135 million, the amount spent on programs that teach both abstinence and contraception.  Opponents of abstinence-only education assert that such programs are unproven, dangerous and irresponsible because they do not give young people all information they need to make effective decisions and that young people who are taught about abstinence and contraception are more likely to delay sexual activity and use protection correctly and consistently when they do become sexually active.



New Regulation Would Make

Fetus Eligible For Health Care

The Health and Human Services Department is proposing a regulation to clarify the definition of “child” under the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) as starting with conception.  Considering a fetus an “unborn child” would allow states to provide prenatal and delivery care to pregnant women under SCHIP.


Six states have received a waiver from HHS to extend SCHIP coverage to parents of eligible children, and two states have extended it to pregnant women.  HHS claimed that the change is simply a way to allow states wanting to extend coverage to pregnant women to do so faster and easier since they would not have to apply for a waiver.  HHS officials said this is not the first time a fetus has been eligible for government benefits.  Until 1981, they said, developing fetuses were eligible for Medicaid, allowing for prenatal care.


Pro-choice groups called the proposed change an attempt to give a fetus legal standing that could undermine abortion rights.  They contend that the program simply should be extended to pregnant women.


Religious right groups have acclaimed the change’s potential benefit to the “pro-life” cause.  The FRC said Bush has “given the pro-life movement a much-needed shot in the arm.  Not only is the government on record extending personhood to conception, but this declaration helps make the case that unborn children should be afforded the same rights as their postnatal counterparts.”  Focus on the Family stated, "This recommended policy change is a tangible demonstration of the pro-life position; it puts feet to the president's words."


The proposed rule change must go through a period of public comment before a regulation is issued.  An HHS spokesperson said it probably will go into effect sometime this spring.



Quote of the Month


"More and more scholars agree that chronic welfare dependency is not fundamentally an economic issue.  …  It is a social issue.  The reason why we have mother-child family fragments living generation after generation on welfare is not because these mothers don't have jobs — it's because they don't have husbands. The only real way to turn this around is to restore marriage."


Michael Schwartz, vice president of government relations at Concerned Women for America, quoted 1-7-02 by Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink.

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