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November 2002           Issue #92



Election Analysis

The religious right (RR) and their opponents agree that the election outcome will increase the RR’s influence on officials in Congress and in legislatures across the country. They disagree, as do elected officials, about whether the election should be construed as a mandate to enact the RR’s agenda.

In Texas, David Dewhurst, as lieutenant governor and presiding officer in the Senate, and Tom Craddick, as the next speaker of the House of Representatives, will control the agenda of the two chambers. Both have been associated with the RR. Some RR issues could move to the top of the legislative agenda but more pressing issues, like the budget shortfall and insurance rates, may crowd those issues out. The day after the election, Texas Republican Party chair Susan Weddington predicted that legislators will consider school vouchers, requiring parental consent to abortions for minors, and barring same-sex unions. Dewhurst, a vouchers advocate, said he does not think the legislature will have time to look at vouchers next year, while Craddick asserted that the House, not the GOP, will determine the House’s agenda.

Nationally, RR groups are hailing the election as a significant victory for the “pro-life and pro-family” agenda. The Family Research Council noted that the GOP's get-out-the-vote effort focused heavily on churches. RR groups claim that “pro-life” issues and voters made the difference in many races, such as in key Senate races in Georgia, Missouri, and Minnesota. Several RR groups cited Fox News exit polls showing that the percent of conservative religious voters increased, reversing a 10-year decline.

Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council, said:
We can expect the GOP to advance the social issues agenda: a partial-birth abortion ban, the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, the Child Custody Protection Act, a ban on human cloning, the faith-based initiative, President Bush's marriage strengthening component of welfare reform renewal, and judicial nominations. Conservatives should, however, manage their expectations. Obstacles remain. Passing anything in the Senate is difficult, requiring 60 votes and not just a simple majority. Yet President Bush, having achieved a historic victory, is in a very strong position to advance his conservative agenda.



Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, said:
The pro-life stand was a decisive factor in the Republican takeover of the Senate…Surely this must put an end to the notion by establishment Republicans that people who uphold moral values cannot win. Surely the defeat of one of their favorite pro-choice incumbents, Connie Morella in the liberal state of Maryland, should say that if the Grand Old Party is to prevail it must re-embrace its platform and stop dividing its members in the guise of uniting them. … Big-Tent Republicans would do well to go back to the teepee.


Americans United for Separation of Church and State found that candidates who had emphasized RR themes or received significant backing by the RR won 11 of 17 races for U.S. Senate or governor and 16 of 25 races for U.S. House. AU contends, though, that there is no evidence that the RR was the key factor in deciding any key races. Exit polls, it says, suggest that voters backing GOP candidates did so to support Pres. Bush, not the RR. AU noted that candidates w/RR support who campaigned as moderates were more successful than those who overtly aligned themselves with the RR. Also, the RR tended to focus its resources on campaigns in which its candidates were likely to win.

The RR faction on the State Board of Education will stay at 6. Three RR incumbents were re-elected (Bradley, McLeroy, Miller), two new RR candidates won seats (Leo, Bauer), and moderates won 2 of 3 seats vacated by retiring RR members (Neill, Watson, and Strickland). All 15 members were on the ballot this year due to redistricting.



What Can I Do?


Groups that defend church-state separation, individual liberty, and freedom of expression & oppose the religious right will need your support more than ever in the coming months. Please help them stand up to the religious right by giving your time, voice, and money. We must show our elected officials that the election was not a referendum on the religious right’s agenda.




Ten Commandments On Texas
Capitol Grounds Held Not Unconstitutional

A federal judge has ruled that a stone monument of the Ten Commandments on the Texas Capitol grounds does not violate the constitutional separation of church and state. The Austin judge, rejecting the petitioner’s claim that it is an endorsement of Judeo-Christian beliefs by the state government, ruled that no reasonable person would consider the display a religious endorsement. The monument was donated to Texas in 1961 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, ostensibly to promote youth morality to curb juvenile delinquency. The judge said documents show that Texas accepted it for secular, not religious, purposes. He also noted the absence of other complaints and its out-of-the-way location. Courts in other states have reached the opposite conclusion about such monuments on state capitol grounds.


Social Studies Textbooks Changed
To Appease Religious Right

In the wake of public hearings on social studies textbooks being considered by the State Board of Education, publishers made numerous changes. Some books that had said events happened millions of years ago changed the wording to “the distant past” to address complaints that the time frame did not fit the biblical view of creation. Passages stating that Islam and the Quran teach values such as peacefulness were removed after criticism that the passages were too positive. Sections on slavery and global warming that had been called un-American and anti-Christian were deleted, according to the Texas Freedom Network. The Board votes this month on whether to approve or reject the books.

Federal Funds Go To Faith-Based Groups,
Including Robertson's

A group led by Pat Robertson is one of 21 faith- and community-based organizations to be awarded grants from the Department of Health & Human Services. The $25 million grants, the first from the “Compassion Capital Fund,” are part of Pres. Bush’s initiative to “help level the playing field” for groups seeking federal funds. The money is to be used to provide technical assistance to and support programs of other faith-based and community groups. HHS is also awarding four grants totaling more than $850,000 to support research regarding how faith- and community-based organizations provide social services and the role they play in communities and in their clients’ lives. Ironically, Robertson was initially a vocal critic of Bush’s faith-based plan.


Local Event


Carolyn Boyle, coordinator of the Texas Coalition for Public Schools, and Samantha Smoot, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, will speak on "Upcoming Texas Legislative Issues".


Event will be held at: Bayland Community Center, 6400 Bissonnet (west of Hillcroft)

Event will be held on: Thursday November 21, 7:00 P.M.

Sponsor:  The Greater Houston Area Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. 



Quote of the Month


"Get the few liberals out. If you don't do it, it ain't going to be done…You will be doing the Lord's work, and he will richly bless you for it."

Sen. James James Inhofe (R-OK) to Christian Coalition’s 2002 annual conference, Oct. 2002.

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