Texas Governor Signs Sermon Non-Disclosure Bill in a Church

In Texas, I think the GOP leadership wants to unite state and evangelical church.
In what might be a first, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law inside a church. The law, effective immediately, allows clergy to refuse to turn over sermons to government entities via subpoena. The law says:

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Title 6, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, is amended by adding Chapter 150A to read as follows:
CHAPTER 150A. DISCOVERY BY GOVERNMENTAL UNIT
Sec. 150A.001. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:
(1) “Governmental unit” has the meaning assigned by Section 101.001.
(2) “Religious organization” means an organization that qualifies as a religious organization under Section 11.20, Tax Code.
(3) “Religious worship” has the meaning assigned by Section 11.20, Tax Code.
Sec. 150A.002. SERMONS PRIVILEGED FROM DISCLOSURE TO GOVERNMENTAL UNIT. A governmental unit may not, in any civil action or other civil or administrative proceeding to which the governmental unit is a party, compel the production or disclosure of a written copy or audio or video recording of a sermon delivered by a religious leader during religious worship of a religious organization or compel the religious leader to testify regarding the sermon.

This law was promoted in response to a subpoena issued by the city of Houston in response to preachers advocating against a gay rights ordinance.
While the law will do the unusual thing of allowing preachers to keep sermons secret, it will also forbid subpoenas of any speeches by Imams which might be considered inflammatory.
The church signing was conducted in Grace Church with Steve Riggle as pastor. Riggle’s church is affiliated with Gateway Church in Southlake Texas. Riggle is on the board of trustees of The King’s University and has an honorary doctoral from the school which he passes off as an earned degree.
It is am amazing place we have come to when the state colludes with the church to make the church less transparent with regard to a pastor’s sermons.

Texas Governor Tries to Mobilize Churches in Favor of LGBT Discrimination (UPDATED with Video of John Hagee)

On Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott contacted ten megachurch pastors about Texas HB 2899. Abbott told the pastors the bill was being held up by the Speaker of the House and asked the pastors to persuade their congregations to oppose it. Robert Morris, pastor at Gateway Church in Southlake, called HB 2899 “the bathroom bill” and urged Christian church goers to voice their opposition to their representatives. Watch Morris urge his congregation to call their legislators.

Transcript:

Also I want to let you know something that um, I’m gonna ask you to do something. Governor Abbott called me yesterday, uh, he’s calling-he called ten churches, um, that are mega-churches here in the, in Texas, the state of Texas. Uh, and there’s a House Bill right now, that we need to let our representatives know about, and bring it to the floor for a vote. It’s being held up right now by the Speaker of the House, and I’m saying that, uh, the leader of the House, um, I’m saying that– that is, in the state of Texas, okay, this isn’t Washington, this is Austin. Uh, but, it is 2899, HB2899.
You can go to our website, and find out how to contact your representative. Uh, it is being referred to as the bathroom bill, but please understand, this is to protect our children. We need to stand up, and as adults, that’s why we say no, you don’t drive a car when you’re 11, you don’t get to drive a car until you’re 16. Adults need to make laws and rules for children who don’t know how to make those decisions at that time.
And we don’t want to be disrespectful to anyone, but this is so that boys do not go into girls’ locker rooms, and girls do not go into boys locker rooms. And the governor said, “Please, ask your people to call their state representative by Monday. And so you can go on our website, and it says, find your representative, or whatever it is, locate, somethin’ like that, somethin’ like that.
There it is, find your local state representative click here. You just find out who your representative is, and call and say, we support, uh, and you can read about the bill, too, you can read the bill, but we want you to at least bring it to a vote. At least get it out of the committee. And this one representative, um, y’know, is holding it up. And so we-we really do need to protect our children. And I want to ask you to, so I’m asking every member of Gateway church to do that, all right

John Hagee also made this appeal to his congregation, but according to a friend who watched 10 other Texas megachurch sermons (deserves a medal), Abbott’s appeal didn’t make it in those sermons. Hagee was very direct. Listen:

Transcript:

I have a very urgent announcement I want every person in this building to hear. And those of you who are watching on television, especially in the state of Texas. I received a personal call from the governor of Texas Friday night, asking for the help of the people of faith in protecting our children in the Texas public schools. The governor’s asking for people of faith to call the members of the House of Representatives to pass House Bill 2899. I want you to get a piece of paper, and write this down. Pass House Bill 2899. To insure the safety and security for our children in our public school bathrooms. I want you to call Joe Strauss, if you can’t write that, take a — take your cell phone out, I know you have it, take a photo of that [pointing to screen with contact information of House State Affairs Committee Chairs]
Call Joe Strauss, call Brian Cook, Helen Giddings, the co-chairs of the committee, that are not allowing this bill to be voted on. Many Texans assume that this is going to be accomplished, because we are a conservative state–but let me tell you very candidly, we are losing this effort right now, because your elected officials have not heard from people of faith.
They have certainly heard from the opponents, they need to hear from us. And if you really want to put feet to your faith, then I encourage you to start calling, and start calling today, uh, because it will go into a computer, call tomorrow, call every day until you feel like you’ve covered the waterfront, but I want you to call those three people, and then, uh, there, you can call your-your representative, if you know that person by name. It’s VERY VERY important. Uh, how many of you understand what I’m talking about here? Very good, thank you.

Even though Morris and Hagee framed the bill as an effort to protect children, the bill actually would prevent Texas counties and cities from enacting ordinances protecting LGBT people from discrimination in jobs, housing and other public services. Worse, the bill would render existing ordinances in place in cities like Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Austin “null and void.”
The bill is linked on the Gateway Church website and leads to this one page bill.
TX HB 2899 LGBT
As you can see, the word bathroom isn’t in this bill. This bill is far more encompassing than a bill about who can use what public bathroom. Currently, Texas has no statewide protections against discrimination due to sexual orientation or gender identity. According to this bill, if a class of people is not now protected by state law, then a city or county will not be able to enact protections for that class. Some cities do protect LGBT people, but these ordinances would be declared “null and void” by this bill.
While churches have always been able to opine on issues in the culture, I think this situation demonstrates one problem with churches becoming an arm of a political party. Morris and Hagee misled their congregations into thinking that a call to the legislature will keep boys out of girls’ showers. However, this bill has a much broader application. Some of the LGBT relatives of Gateway Church and Cornerstone members could lose their jobs or housing if this bill passes since the existing protections in large Texas cities will be invalidated.

Which Same-Sex Marriage Related Action is Lawless?

The Supreme Court last week ruled 5-4 that the 14th Amendment required the states to recognize same-sex unions as legal marriages.
Today, the Family Research Council released the following press release:

Family Research Council Commends Texas Officials for Declining to Blindly Follow Five Justices
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement calling the U.S. Supreme Court ruling an act of “lawlessness” and provided guidance that “county clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex ‘marriage’ licenses. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins issued the following statement in response:
“I find it refreshing and encouraging that state officials are declining to blindly follow five justices who have redefined society’s most fundamental institution — marriage. The Court got it wrong in their ruling and they got it wrong in thinking their edict would force Americans to accept same-sex ‘marriage’ and the corresponding loss of their most basic freedoms. States must ensure the government does not use this ruling to discriminate against those who continue to believe in natural marriage,” concluded Perkins.

The effect of the AG’s opinion appears to be to allow a clerk to avoid doing their duty while referring it to someone who doesn’t mind doing it, analogous to a pharmacist who doesn’t want to fill a script for a drug that might cause an abortion.
Paxton says the Supreme Court ruling was lawless, then he tells the clerks they may not have to comply.
I wonder if the Texas clerks who are fundamentalist Christians explore the sexual morality of the straight couples who request a license before issuing it. If licenses are issued to those who meet the various clerks’ standards, then I suppose Texas could have a hodgepodge of standards which vary from clerk to clerk. Surely, if the clerks’ religious beliefs about same-sex marriage can be honored then a clerk who believes people of different religions shouldn’t marry could decline to issue a license.
There is a word for when government officials decide to do what they want to do instead of what the law requires.
A.G. Paxton, what is that word?

Texas Textbook Wars Enter New Phase

Now it gets serious. Textbooks written according to Texas’ curriculum standards are slated to be evaluated in public hearings amid criticism from liberal groups, according to Politco’s Stephanie Simon.
According to Simon:

Texas students may soon be reading in their history textbooks that the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses, segregated schools weren’t all that bad and taxes imposed for programs like Social Security haven’t measurably improved society.

Those passages are among dozens of biased, misleading or inaccurate lessons identified on Wednesday by a panel of scholars commissioned by a liberal advocacy group to analyze dozens of new history, geography and civics textbooks up for review by the state Board of Education.

Unfortunately, the process appears to be about winning a political battle rather than historical accuracy. Might be time for the coalition of Christian historians to get involved. I definitely plan to raise this issue at the Conference on Faith and History later this month at Pepperdine University.

David Barton's Favorite Candidate For Texas Attorney General Preparing Texas To Be Independent Nation

Like Ted Cruz before him, Barry Smitherman is a rising star in the Texas GOP. Smitherman is currently chair of the Railroad Commission and running to be Texas Attorney General.  David Barton endorsed Cruz and now David Barton has endorsed Smitherman for AG.
Smitherman’s views are right of center to say the least. He is preparing for the demise of the nation and wants Texas to be ready to secede from the union.  So when Smitherman says he wants to secure the borders, he might mean with Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and Arkansas as well as Mexico.
His defense of Christian identity group “Crusaders for Yahweh” is disturbing for one of two reasons. Either Smitherman doesn’t know the Crusaders are white nationalists, or he does know and stuck up for them anyway. Being in sympathy with white nationalists would be worse than being uninformed, but being uninformed about such things does not inspire confidence in an Attorney General candidate.
 
*I changed the headline to reflect the fact that I have seen no evidence that Smitherman advocates secession from the U.S. now. His statement to WND supports Texas independence if the U.S. collapses.

Glenn Beck Interviews David Barton This Morning – Barton Says The Time Is Not Right For Him To Run

A somewhat vague post on the Draft David Barton for Senate Facebook page has me wondering if Barton is going to disclose his decision whether or not to challenge John Cornyn for the Texas Senate seat. The author of the post wrote:

Listen to Glenn Beck’s radio program tomorrow morning for an interview with David Barton and check this page right after the interview.

Rick Green has been holding out for 5,000 likes as a test of interest in a Barton run. Today, the page stands at 2,995. However, if Barton is getting the green light from those he considers important in Texas, he may go ahead with a challenge.
On the other hand, if Barton and company look at last night’s rejection of tea party politics such as occurred in Alabama and Virginia, they might pull back and decline to challenge Cornyn who has significant conservative bona fides. According to several new reports, tea party supporters make up a sizable chunk of Barton’s support.
Beck’s show begins at 9am and can be heard here. During the first hour of the program, Beck said Barton will announce his decision during the second hour of the show. Watch this space…
UPDATE: On Glenn Beck’s show this morning, David Barton said he does not plan to run for Senate. Earlier, Barton told Beck that he had to check with his family and with God. Barton told Beck God didn’t tell him to run.
Barton released a written statement to The Blaze.
 

Janet Mefferd: David Barton Has Too Much Baggage On Historian Credentials To Run For Senate

Janet Mefferd is a conservative radio talk show host who believes Texas Senator John Cornyn needs an opponent in the upcoming GOP primary. However, despite the buzz building to draft David Barton, she doesn’t think he is the guy for the job. On her Facebook page, Mefferd declared:

I heartily agree that Texas Sen. John Cornyn needs to be primaried, but not by David Barton. He has way too much baggage on his “historian” credentials.

She then links to MSNBC’s article on the subject (which in turn links to a review of Getting Jefferson Right).
One of her readers then takes her to task for referring to MSNBC, as if left leaning folks are Barton’s only critics. Mefferd could have (and could still) link to Gregg Frazier’s World magazine piece on Barton’s view of Jefferson’s religion.
 
 
 

Could David Barton Win The Texas GOP Senate Race? (UPDATED)

There is a lot of chatter these days among tea partiers in Texas about who should run against John Cornyn in the 2014 Senate primary. Despite a conservative voting record, Cornyn is being targeted by the tea party set because he is perceived to be soft on Obamacare, immigration, taxes and the national debt. As I reported on Monday, David Barton has been asked by some tea party folks to consider a challenge to Cornyn. The spin is that Barton has party experience, broad name recognition, and, probably with Glenn Beck’s help, could access adequate funds for a Senate campaign.
Without Barton in the mix, Cornyn seems safe. Cornyn’s current challengers probably could not mount a significant campaign to unseat Cornyn. Thus far, those challengers include attorney Linda VegaErick Wyatt and Dwayne Stovall. Vega got into the race last week and is known as an immigration activist. Her main themes appear to be immigration reform and outreach to the Latino community. Except perhaps on immigration, she sounds all the right tea party notes.
Wyatt is a veteran of the Iraq War and sounds familiar tea party themes of small government and overturning Obamacare but is newcomer to politics. Also a novice, Stovall also appeals to tea partiers with a twist — he spoke at the 2013 annual meeting of the Texas League of the South. The TX League website described his speech as follows:

The second speaker was Dwayne Stovall, who shared his experiences from the recent election where he ran for office. He also elaborated on trends he is seeing in other groups as well, noting that all major groups in Texas have positions on the secession issue, with the major difference being the time tables they are considering.
He also elaborated on the recent legislative session in the Texas Legislature noting the bills and concerns of interest to achieving local sovereignty. A matter which he brought up worth noting is the amount of debt owed by Texas along with the source of that debt, which consists mainly of school districts and municipal bonds.

Stovall is VP of the Houston chapter of the Refounding Father Society. The society seems to have much in common with the League of the South, especially a preoccupation with nullification and interposition. The society’s website refers visitors to Mike Church’s Founder’s Library. Church is a radio talk show host who shares at least some common ground with the League (e.g., dislike of Lincoln, promotion of secession and nullification). Stovall might appeal to the far, far right but could be too extreme for the GOP, even in TX.
If these three are the only challengers, the Senate seat seems safe for Cornyn. However, I suspect the situation would change if Barton gets into the race.
Barton’s name recognition would swamp the other three challengers and soon involve the national media. A Barton v. Cornyn confrontation would place additional focus on the current GOP Civil War. Barton’s supporters would invoke memories of Ted Cruz’s improbable victory over an establishment candidate in Texas with Barton cast as Cruz’s ally. Given Barton’s early support for Cruz, I suspect Cruz would endorse Barton. Cornyn would have a boatload of opposition research to use but Barton’s followers seem immune to such things. All of this is probably enough to cause major heartburn among the GOP establishment in Texas.
UPDATE: National Review Online is on the case and confirms that Barton is considering a run against Cornyn. Barton’s partner at Wallbuilders, Rick Green told NRO:

More than 1,000 (zero exaggeration, that is an actual number) tea party and republican party leaders have asked David Barton to run. Polling says Sen. Cornyn is vulnerable and that’s why he is running ads right now. Like America’s Founding Fathers, David Barton will not “seek” this office, but if the people of Texas speak loud enough in the next few days, he could most certainly be drafted in by the voters.

A look at the membership of the Facebook group dedicated to drafting Barton reveals that many of Barton’s family are also a part of the effort. Barton himself is a member of the group and Green’s wife is actively adding members to the group.  Julie McCarty, tea party leader mentioned in the NRO article, has mounted a vigorous defense of Barton on her Facebook page.
The blog Opposing Views has also covered the possibility of a Barton Senate run.
Related Posts:
David Barton For Senate?
Rick Green: 5,000 Likes On Facebook Could Trigger A Senate Run For David Barton
Janet Mefferd: David Barton Has Too Much Baggage On Historian Credentials To Run For Senate
David Barton For Senate: Status Report With More From Politico, Glenn Beck, First Things

Court says Texas had no right to keep children

Testing the intersection of religious liberty and child protection, the state of Texas removed over 460 children from a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) in April, 2008.
Today, an appeals court said the state of Texas was in error given that Texas law requires imminent danger as a test for removal. The authorities appealed to the “pervasive belief system” of the cult as one reason to take all children. The court indicated that the beliefs of the cult was insufficient basis for imminent danger.
The memorandum is here…
While I have no sympathy for the doctrines or practices of this group, I do think an appeal to the beliefs of the cult as a prime foundation for removal could set a ambiguous precedent for how child welfare professionals regard religious beliefs. There are less dramatic actions that can be taken and indeed probably should be taken to prevent harm to children.