Last update:







June 2001           Issue #75



Religious Right Agenda in the Legislature


The religious right had little success in promoting its legislative agenda during this session. The Texas Eagle Forum called it the "homosexual-rights session." It cited the passage of a hate crimes law that included language about sexual orientation and a provision backing hate crimes curriculum in public schools and the passage by committees of laws to ban discrimination in public schools based on a student’s sexual orientation and to repeal the sodomy law. Among other issues high on the religious right’s legislative agenda: 


The Defense of Marriage Act, to prohibit the state from recognizing or validating a same-sex marriage or civil union, was the top priority of many religious right groups. The Senate approved it and the House did not vote on it. 


Some school vouchers bills were offered but they did not get out of committee.

The Prenatal Protection Act (to create penalties for the death of or injury to "an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth") did not come up for a vote in either chamber. Several other bills to restrict abortions died in committee. 

A bill to allow covenant marriages fell short. 


The Texas Christian Coalition, calling redistricting "perhaps the most important issue of the legislative session," charged that the plan adopted by the House was unfair and unjust because it "seeks to protect leftist incumbents and some rural Republicans … at the expense of the conservative grassroots." The bill died when the Senate did not vote on it.



Religious Right Agenda in Congress


In debates on the federal education bills, both the U.S. House and the Senate rejected vouchers proposals in votes that did not follow strict party lines. Sens. Gramm and Hutchison and Reps. Brady, Culberson, and DeLay voted for vouchers. Reps. Bentsen, Green, Jackson-Lee, Lampson, and Paul voted against them.

The House and Senate both adopted the "Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act.'' It denies federal funds to any public elementary or secondary school or local or state educational agency that has a designated open forum and discriminates against the Boy Scouts in providing equal access to school premises or facilities due to the Scouts’ position on homosexuality. Sen. Helms, who offered the Scout amendment, joined other Republicans voting against a similar amendment offered by Sen. Boxer that would bar denial of fair access to any youth group listed in the U.S. Code as a patriotic society, including the Scouts, based on that group's favorable or unfavorable position on sexual orientation. Boxer’s amendment passed 52 to 47.

The House rejected an amendment to the State Department authorization bill that would have removed restrictions imposed by President Bush on U.S. foreign aid to family planning providers in developing countries. The restrictions, originally initiated by President Reagan and called the Mexico City policy or the "global gag rule," deny funding for any family planning services to groups that use their own funds for abortion-related services, including counseling. Reps. Brady, Culberson, DeLay, and Paul voted to keep the restrictions. Bentsen, Green, Jackson-Lee, and Lampson voted to end them.

The new tax bill did not include Bush’s wish to extend the charitable contribution deduction to all taxpayers. In what the religious right see as a step toward vouchers, it did raise the annual limit of contributions to an education savings account and, for the first time, allow funds in the accounts to be used for expenses at elementary and secondary schools.

The Stem Cell Research Act of 2001 (H.R. 2059) would provide for human embryonic stem cell generation and research. The embryos must come only from in-vitro fertilization clinics, must otherwise have been discarded, and must be donated with the progenitors’ written informed consent. The "Responsible Stem Cell Research Act of 2001" (HR 2096), supported by the religious right, would allow research only on stem cells from human placentas, umbilical cord blood, or organs or tissues of a human being "who has been born" or "of unborn human offspring who died of natural causes."

Meanwhile, Bush has said he opposes federal funding for stem cell research "that involves destroying living human embryos" but his administration is reportedly split on using human embryos. Some of his advisors are trying to fashion a compromise but religious right groups oppose any compromise. ACTION ITEM: Groups on both sides are appealing for calls to the White House Office of Public Liaison (202-456-2380) and Department of Health and Human Services (202-690-7000) to express your opinion.



U.S. Supreme Court Actions on Church-State Separation


The U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on an appellate court decision that a Ten Commandments monument on a city hall’s front lawn violates the separation of church and state. The Court does not release justices’ votes on whether or not to take a case but three justices took the unusual step of issuing a statement saying they wanted to hear it. Chief Justice Rehnquist, writing for Justices Scalia and Thomas, wrote, "To be sure, the Ten Commandments are a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths…Undeniably, however, the Commandments have secular significance as well, because they have made a substantial contribution to our secular legal codes." The monument and surrounding structures "convey that the monument is part of the city's celebration of its cultural and historical roots, not a promotion of religious faith. …Considered in that setting, the monument …simply reflects the Ten Commandments' role in the development of our legal system."

Justice Stevens issued a statement in response. He noted that the monument begins with the lines, "THE TEN COMMANDMENTS -- I AM the LORD thy God," which appears in a larger type size than the rest of the Commandments. "The graphic emphasis placed on those first lines," Stevens said, "is rather hard to square with the proposition that the monument expresses no particular religious preference...."

Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice represented the city defending the monument. Texas Attorney General Cornyn joined seven other state attorneys general in asking the Court to take the appeal. Lower courts have issued conflicting opinions about such displays.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that a public school district that allowed community groups to meet at its school building after class hours violated the free speech rights of a Christian youth group that it excluded from meeting there. In Good News Club Et Al. V. Milford Central School, the district had denied the club’s request to meet in the school on the ground that the proposed use was the equivalent of religious worship prohibited by the district’s community use policy. The Court held that the district discriminated against the club because of its religious viewpoint in violation of the Free Speech Clause.

Justice Thomas, writing for the Court, said that allowing the club to meet on the school’s premises would not have violated the Establishment Clause since the meetings were to be after school, not sponsored by the school, and open to any student who obtained parental consent. "Allowing the Club to speak on school grounds would ensure, not threaten, neutrality toward religion." In addition, "it cannot be said that the danger that children would misperceive the endorsement of religion is any greater than the danger that they would perceive a hostility toward the religious viewpoint if the Club were excluded from the public forum."



Quote of the Month


"This is really a license to persecute Christian children. I’m not saying that lightly. I’m not exaggerating. That’s where all this is leading."

Robert Knight, director of the Concerned Women for America’s Culture and Family Institute, referring to a proposal to fund expanded hate-crime instruction in schools; from Family News in Focus, web site of Focus on the Family, 6-17-01

Let Freedom Ring news is published monthly. 

Send news items & details of events to:


Let Freedom Ring

P.O. Box 55084,

Houston, TX  77255-5084








5th of every month



$25 / individual or $35 / family membership. 


More information:



Web Site:



Home | Publications | About Us | Newsletters | Join Us | Links | Events | Officials | Get Involved | Updates




Copyright © 2001 - 2003 Let Freedom Ring