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May 2003           Issue #98



Religious Right Agenda in Legislature


  • The Texas House and Senate passed the Defense of Marriage Act (HB 38 and SB 7), which bars state recognition of a same-sex marriage or civil union.


  • The House approved a Senate bill 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, meditate or engage in any other nondisruptive silent activity (SB 83).


  • The House passed a bill creating civil and criminal penalties for harming a fetus (HB 246).  It defines an individual to include “an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth.”  Its companion bill (SB 319) is pending in a Senate committee.


  • The House passed the Woman’s Right to Know Act (HB 15) regulating abortions.  It would require a doctor to inform a woman seeking an abortion, at least 24 hours beforehand, of the medical risks of an abortion and of carrying the child to term, the fetus’ probable gestational age, and resources for financial assistance and pregnancy prevention.  A Senate committee passed the companion bill (SB 835).



Religious Right Agenda in Congress


  • The House rejected by bipartisan votes two attempts to add vouchers to the federal special education bill, “Improving Education Results for Children With Disabilities Act of 2003” (H.R. 1350).


  • Sen. Kennedy, with 48 sponsors from both parties, has reintroduced the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (S. 966) to provide federal assistance to states and local jurisdictions to prosecute hate crimes.  It would expand federal hate crime jurisdiction to acts motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation, gender or disability.  The religious right oppose it.

  • Sen. DeWine has reintroduced the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (S. 1019) to make harming a fetus except in abortions and medical treatment a federal crime.  Such legislation passed the House but not the Senate during the last two sessions of Congress.  Some think the Laci Peterson case will give the bill an impetus, although California, Peterson’s home state, has such a law.

  • The Child Custody Protection Act has been reintroduced (S. 851).  This bill would make taking a minor across state lines for an abortion without the consent of one of her parents a federal crime.  The House approved this act three times in the past, but the Senate either did not take it up or rejected it.

  • The House adopted legislation to provide aid to foreign countries to combat HIV/AIDS (H.R.1298) with two amendments for which the religious right had lobbied.  One amendment mandates that 33% of the funds set aside for HIV/AIDS prevention should go to abstinence-until-marriage programs.  The other allows faith-based groups receiving funding to refuse to distribute condoms if doing so violates their religious or moral beliefs.  For weeks, the religious right had criticized Pres. Bush for supporting a bill without these provisions.  After the vote, the religious right, including the abstinence amendment’s author (chair of the House Values Action Team), attributed their success to Bush’s commitment to “a priority for abstinence in the bill” and the White House having “pulled out all the stops” for the amendments.


  • Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Joe Wilson have proposed a concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress regarding the protection of religious sites and the freedom of access and worship (S.CON.RES.32 and H.CON.RES.150).  It declares that holy sites currently under Israel's sovereignty should remain under Israeli protection “to assure the safety of American citizens.”  The Christian Coalition claims that the idea for the resolution came from its president, who asked Graham and Wilson “to sponsor the resolution out of her love for Israel.”  Rep. Carter is the only one of the 39 House cosponsors from our area.



Religious Right Berate Republicans For "Pandering" To Gays



Sen. Santorum’s comments about the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of Texas’ law barring homosexual sodomy sparked outrage from all quarters.  While some called for him to apologize or resign his position as the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, the religious right directed its anger at Republican leaders for failing to come to Santorum’s support quickly.  They called this one more sign that the White House and Congress are “pandering to the homosexual lobby” and the Republican Party is abandoning its “family values” stance and trying to become more “gay friendly.”


      Religious right groups had criticized Republican National Committee chairman Marc Racicot for meeting privately in March with 300 leaders of the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that works to advance gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equal rights.  It was, they assert, the first time that an RNC chairman met with a gay rights group.  They lamented that it sent a message that the GOP supports the gay rights agenda, which, they allege, wants to redefine marriage and family out of existence.


Religious right groups have assailed the Bush administration for months for “courting homosexual activists,” primarily by appointing openly gay individuals to Administration posts.  In January, the American Family Association accused the Bush Administration of having a “blind spot” on “the homosexual movement.”  They have also aimed their criticism at Congress, citing its approval of domestic partnership benefits for government employees in the District of Columbia and Sen. Hatch's promise to help pass Kennedy's "hate crimes" legislation.


Last week, Racicot met with 11 religious right leaders at GOP headquarters to discuss their concerns.  According to Concerned Women for America, Racicot, in explaining the HRC meeting, said that he meets with everyone but he confessed to some naivete that the meeting would legitimize the HRC.  The attendees asserted their opposition to issues supported by the HRC and others.  Some leaders demanded “a clear, strong, unequivocal statement” from the GOP that homosexuality is immoral and warned that many pro-family voters would not vote in elections if the GOP continued drifting towards “homosexual activism.”



Updates: Army Chaplain's Baptizing and Tech Biology Professor



Last month, we reported that the U.S. Army’s Chaplain Corps was investigating whether an army chaplain had been offering unwashed American soldiers in Iraq access to a pool if they agreed to be baptized.  According to the Houston Chronicle, the Army has determined that the chaplain did not coerce any soldiers into baptism.  It also denies that soldiers had no other sources of water for hygiene.


After a Texas Tech University biology professor revised his web site, the U.S. Department of Justice closed its inquiry into whether he had engaged in religious discrimination by declining to write graduate school recommendations for biomedical science students who do not believe in evolution.  Michael Dini’s web site formerly questioned how one who denies evolution, which he called “the most important theory in biology,” can practice in a field heavily based on biology.  It now states that students must be able to give a scientific answer to the origin of human species, not that they must believe in evolution.  It also states that the criterion should not be misconstrued as discriminatory against anyone's personal beliefs, but is meant to ensure that a student uses scientific thinking to answer scientific questions.  A university official said the university did not ask Dini to change his web site or policy and that he had only clarified, not changed, his policy.  The Liberty Legal Institute, the religious right legal group that filed the complaint, claimed “complete victory.”




Quote of the Month



"God has given us this victory.” 

Texas Christian Coalition, about passage of the Defense of Marriage Act, 4-30-03.


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