March 2003 Issue #96
Religious Right Agenda
Rep. Kent Grusendorf, chair of the House Committee on Public
Education, has filed a bill to create a private school voucher program in
school districts with over 40,000 students where a majority is eligible for
federal free or reduced priced lunches. Rep. Ron Wilson has signed on as a
joint author of the bill, HB 2465. The committee will hold a public hearing
on Wilson’s vouchers bill (HB 658) and possibly Grusendorf’s on Tuesday,
Some religious right supporters oppose a bill to cap
noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits because, they say, it
will encourage more doctors to perform abortions. They reason that many ob-gyns
who choose not to perform abortions due to high malpractice insurance
premiums will change their practices if the caps result in lower premiums.
S.B. 319 and HB 246,
dubbed the “Prenatal Protection Act,” would allow a person who harms or
kills a fetus to be criminally prosecuted and to be sued by the fetus’
parents, unless the fetus’ death was the intended result of a legal medical
procedure performed by a health care provider or a legal drug
administration. The Texas Christian
pushing for the “unborn baby” to “be recognized as a living human being.”
What Can I Do?
Call Texas House
education committee members before Tuesday afternoon to urge a
vote against all voucher bills, including HB 658 & 2465. Dawson,
Dutton, Eissler, and Hochberg (who opposes vouchers) are members from
our area. If you are a constituent, be sure to say so. The others
are Grusendorf, Griggs, Oliveira, Branch, and Madden. The enclosed
list has phone numbers of our area legislators. All numbers are at
house.state.tx.us . A
more extensive list with links to web sites is on Let Freedom Ring’s
web site on the “Elected Officials” link at
Religious Right Agenda in Congress
The House of
Representatives voted 241 to 155 to pass the Human Cloning Prohibition Act
(H.R. 534) on February 26, three weeks after it was introduced. Reps.
Brady, Culberson, and DeLay voted for it. Bell, Green, Jackson-Lee,
Lampson, and Paul voted against it. Sen. Cornyn is one of 27 cosponsors
of the Senate version (S. 245).
The Senate passed the
Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 (S.3). Cornyn was a cosponsor.
The bill exempts procedures necessary to save a mother’s life but not to
protect a woman’s health, although the U.S. Supreme Court deemed a
Nebraska ban unconstitutional in part because it lacked such an
exception. The House is expected to adopt its version (H.R.760) soon.
Rep. Jones has
introduced the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act (H.R.235) to
amend the federal tax code to “to protect the religious free exercise and
free speech rights of churches and other houses of worship.” Jones’ bill
differs from his 2001 Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act,
which would have allowed houses of worship to participate in political
campaigns. Under his new bill, no church would be deemed to have
participated in such campaigns “because of the content, preparation, or
presentation of any homily, sermon, teaching, dialectic, or other
presentation made during religious services or gatherings.” It would not
permit any disbursements for electioneering communications or political
expenditures prohibited by federal campaign law. Jones acknowledged that
he (with help from the American Center for Law and Justice, which was
founded by Pat Robertson) narrowed his bill’s focus to the issue of free
speech to address concerns expressed about his first bill.
Sen. Rick Santorum,
along with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, reintroduced his version of Pres. Bush’s
faith-based initiative, the Charity Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment Act of
2003 or the CARE Act of 2003 (S.272). It has 11 bipartisan
The religious right has
been excoriating Senate Democrats for their filibuster of the nomination
of Miguel Estrada, nominated by Pres. Bush to the D.C. Circuit Court of
Appeals. The RR has been highly critical of the Democrats’ handling of
Bush’s most controversial judicial nominees since Bush took office.
Federal Guidelines on Prayer in School
Department of Education has issued “Guidance on Constitutionally Protected
Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,” as required by the 2001
No Child Left Behind Act education reform bill. As a condition of receiving
federal education funds, a local educational agency must certify that it has
no policy that prevents, or otherwise denies participation in,
constitutionally protected prayer in public schools.
The guidance cites
principles contained in U.S. Supreme Court decisions that distinguish
impermissible governmental religious speech from constitutionally protected
private religious speech of students. It then applies those principles in
says that schools cannot restrict a student’s religious expression at
graduation, student assemblies and extracurricular events “where student
speakers are selected on the basis of genuinely neutral, evenhanded criteria
and retain primary control over the content of their expression.” Some are
criticizing the guidance for implying that the legality of student-initiated
prayer at school events has been settled when, in fact, federal courts have
published conflicting decisions on that question. The guidance is at
Education Board Member to Become Chair
The Texas Senate
confirmed Geraldine "Tincy" Miller as chair of the State Board of
Education. Miller, who has been on the board for almost 20 years, is part
of the board’s religious right faction. Her nomination by Gov. Perry drew
opposition by some senators due to her role in last year’s defeat of board
chair and moderate Republican Grace Shore by a religious right challenger.
In the end, 6 senators, including Mario Gallegos, voted against her
nomination. The Texas Eagle Forum called her confirmation a victory.
Miller’s term as chair will end in 2005.
“Will the Wall Fall on
the First Amendment?” speech by Dr. Paul Simmons, professor, Dept.
of Family and
Community Medicine, University of Louisville, and member of AU board of
Event will be held at: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 5501 S.
Event will be held on: Tuesday April 22, 2003 7:00 P.M.
Sponsor: The Greater Houston Area Chapter of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State.
Dinner: $25, $15 for students.
RSVP: Required for dinner no later than Apr. 15. F
Information or to RSVP: contact
Charlotte Coffelt at 281-360-2506 or
Quote of the Month
"Where did this
idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical
care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes
straight from the pit of hell. And it's cleverly disguised as having a
tender heart. It's not a tender heart. It's ripping the heart out of
Texas Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Houston, in
interview to El Paso Times,
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