Texas

Beck: Houston Subpoena Flap Is 'More Dangerous Than Anything I Have Ever Seen'

For the time being, Glenn Beck appears to have moved on from his increasingly panic-stricken rants about the threat posed by Ebola and has now turned his attention instead to the situation in which five Houston-area pastors were subpoenaed as part of a lawsuit against the city for rejecting petitions challenging a local anti-discrimination ordinance.

Beck interviewed one of those pastors on his radio program today, during which he declared that this case is the most dangerous thing he has ever seen.

"This is more dangerous to the Republic of Texas than Ebola is," Beck said. "This is more dangerous than anything I have ever seen."

Calling on religious leaders and laypersons from all over America to rise up in opposition to this, Beck said that "this is the most dangerous thing I have seen and we are becoming openly hostile to God. It doesn't end well when a nation like ours does that."

Ted Cruz, the Houston Hype, and the Dishonesty of the Anti-Equality Movement

Conservative religious leaders have a long track record of hyping supposed threats to religious liberty in America  specifically, to the religious liberty of conservative Christians. In fact, portraying Christians as a persecuted minority under siege by anti-freedom LGBT activists and secular humanists has become the right's primary strategy for reversing the advance of equality in America. But even in the long context of crying wolf over threats to religious freedom, Sen. Ted Cruz and his religious right allies have set new records for dishonest hype in their response to this week's controversy over subpoenas sent to a few religious leaders in Houston.

Cruz told the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody that there is a "real risk" that preachers will be hauled off to jail for preaching against homosexuality, recycling an old and equally ludicrous charge that hate crimes laws would result in pastors being dragged from the pulpit.

Some in the media ridicule that threat saying there is no danger of the government coming after pastors. That is the usual response." But he adds: "The specter of government trying to determine if what pastors preach from the pulpit meets with the policy views or political correctness of the governing authorities, that prospect is real and happening now.

Cruz is lying. And he has lots of company promoting the Houston hype. Todd Starnes of Fox News charged, "There is a war over religious liberty in Houston, Texas." The Family Research Council's Ken Blackwell said it smacked of totalitarianism and said it suggested that it was "a domestic version of the terrorists outside of our country" who think "America is evil." Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, declared, "This is how religious liberty dies."

As exciting as it is to hear the alarm bells and read the hyperventilating emails, the truth is far less dramatic. Sorry, Sen. Cruz, but the government is not policing sermons for political correctness. It's not going to start tossing anti-gay preachers in jail.

So what is the real story?

The immediate cause of the ruckus was a subpoena sent by attorneys for the city of Houston to several pastors who had been active in opposition to the city's new anti-discrimination law. Conservatives ran a signature-gathering campaign to put the law before the voters, but city attorneys ruled that so many of the signatures were not valid that the effort did not qualify for the ballot.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Religious Right law firm, stepped in and sued the city over that decision. As part of the discovery process in the lawsuit, attorneys for the city sent subpoenas to five prominent pastors asking for sermons and other communications they had about the ordinance, the signature gathering effort, and the controversy over homosexuality and gender identity.

Here's the problem. The subpoena was sent to pastors who are not party to the lawsuit, and it asked for some materials that do not seem directly relevant to the determination of whether signatures were collected in accordance with the law. By giving pundits something to scream about, the subpoena was a gift to Religious Right leaders and their political allies, who thrive on promoting the myth of anti-Christian religious persecution in the U.S. And they have run with it.

On Friday the city narrowed the scope of their discovery request somewhat. And it's entirely possible that a judge will further limit the amount of materials the city can collect in the Religious Right's lawsuit. That's how our legal system works.

It's terribly inconvenient to the Religious Right's narrative that progressive religious leaders are among those who have criticized the Houston attorneys' subpoena. Among those who criticized the city's subpoena as troubling and overly intrusive were supporters of LGBT equality and church-state separation. Baptists of all stripes weighed in. Both progressive religious leaders and atheists publicly agreed. Even the ACLU! So much for the supposed enemies of religious freedom.

Even some religious conservatives have denounced the Houston hype. In reality, the entire episode undermines right-wing claims that religious liberty is hanging by a thread in America. Indeed, it demonstrates that Religious liberty is widely respected as a core constitutional principle and a fundamental American value — by people across the religious landscape and our fractured political spectrum. If only Ted Cruz and his allies were as committed to the constitutional and legal equality of Houston's, and America's, LGBT citizens.

This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post. 

Richard Land: Houston Subpoenas Foretell True LGBT 'Agenda'

In an interview with Newsmax yesterday, former Southern Baptist Convention public policy chief Richard Land reacted to the controversy over subpoenas issued to Houston pastors , warning that the incident is a harbinger of a future shaped by the gay “agenda” in which pastors will be prosecuted under unconstitutional hate speech laws.

“Are you afraid at some point that your sermons are going to have to be dictated?” the Newsmax host asked Land.

“Well, I think that there’s certainly the danger that they’re going to try to make any biblical reference to homosexuality hate speech,” Land responded.

He added: “I think that this is a warning. This is an overreach by a group that, let’s make no mistake about it, their agenda from the beginning has been not only to have their lifestyle tolerated but to have it affirmed and have it paraded before our children as normal and healthy and to marginalize anyone who disagrees with that to the level of being Klansmen. They want to turn us into Klansmen.”

FRC's Ken Blackwell: Houston Pastor Subpoenas Stem From 'Domestic Version Of The Terrorists Outside Our Country'

The Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell, formerly the secretary of state of Ohio, was a guest on FRC’s “Washington Watch” program yesterday, where the exclusive topic was, of course, the subpoenas of a number of pastors in Houston.

“There are two things throughout human history that welfare states, totalitarian states, utilitarian states have done to maintain their control and to force their worldview on all who are under their governance, and that is they have destroyed the family and they have silenced the church,” Blackwell told guest host Craig James.

The Houston subpoenas, he said, are part of “the big welfare state’s attempt to silence the church, to marginalize the church, to silence Christians so that they can actually concentrate power on reshaping not only their cities, their towns, their states, but also the country.”

He then urged Christians to speak out or else “buy into a domestic version of the terrorists outside of our country” who think “America is evil.”

Conservative Christians must fight back against the “political powers that ride roughshod over us when we relegate ourselves to the sidelines and fall into silence in the face of this sort of abuse of power and cultural attack on what has made us not only the freest country in all of human history, the most prosperous country in all of human history, but has also made us the most diverse country in all of human history,” he said. “So for folks to buy into this ‘blame America first,’ ‘America is evil,’ to buy into a domestic version of the terrorists outside of our country is ridiculous and cannot stand.”

Elsewhere in the program, Blackwell called the subpoenas “a blatant attempt to criminalize Christianity” and alleged that city officials are “engaging in a good, old-fashioned inquisition.”

“Just as the inquisition of old, it wasn’t arrested until good people overtook evil,” he added.

Ted Cruz Agrees Pastors May Soon Be 'Hauled Off to Jail For A Hate Crime'

Sen. Ted Cruz has, unsurprisingly, positioned himself right in the center of the Religious Right’s latest cause celebre, a lawsuit in Houston in which attorneys working for the city subpoenaed materials from local pastors, including copies of their sermons.

City officials have distanced themselves from the subpoenas, issued by pro-bono lawyers defending the city in a dispute over petitions for a referendum to repeal the city’s antidiscrimination ordinance, with Mayor Annise Parker calling their scope “overly broad.” But that hasn’t stopped activists and politicians like Cruz from jumping on the case to claim that all their dire warnings about gay rights leading pastors being thrown in jail are coming true. (An extra element of the case is the fact that Parker is openly gay, which groups like the American Family Association have been quick to note.)

Cruz joined pastors and Religious Right activists at a press conference in Houston yesterday, and in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody today said that all his warnings about the persecution of Christians in America have come to fruition.

When Brody asked Cruz if “we very well soon go through a period where pastors are hauled off to jail for a hate crime because they are speaking for traditional marriage,” Cruz agreed, saying, I think that is a real risk and you and I have both pointed to that risk in the past.”

Jody Hice: Houston Subpoena Flap Is The Anti-Gay Alamo

Georgia Republican congressional candidate Jody Hice devoted his most recent radio commentary to the controversy over subpoena’s served to a number of Houston pastors as part of litigation over the city’s recently enacted nondiscrimination ordinance.

Although city officials have been backing away from the subpoenas, attributing them to overly zealous pro-bono lawyers, the Religious Right has turned the incident into a cause celebre, and Hice is on board, declaring on his radio program that the Houston incident is “the new Alamo” for anti-gay activists.

“This is the battleground now over traditional family,” he said. “And what is going to occur over this development is that we are either going to see this in Houston, Texas, be the beginning of the end of the LGBT assault, if you will, on freedom to practice religion and of traditional family values being rightfully defended, or this is going to be a huge step toward the ultimate collapse of religious liberty in America.”

He warned listeners that if they don’t get involved in Houston, “one day the government is going to be knocking on the door of your pastor.”

“This is the first attempt in this country where we have a widespread attack on pastors in an entire region. And if it is not stopped here, we are in for a serious problem regarding the attacks of religious liberty in this country,” he said.

Earlier in the program, Hice alleged that the subpoenas — which were related to a lawsuit over the validity of petition signatures — were in fact part of a scheme by Houston’s openly lesbian mayor to find sermons that she “might deem to be offensive or whatever” and bring charges against pastors for preaching from the Bible.

“They may be actually trying to bring legal charges against these pastors for sharing with their congregants scriptural passages,” he guessed.

Anti-Gay Mega-Donor Sean Fieler Is Funding Mark Regnerus' New Think Tank

Last year, University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus — author of a widely panned study on same-sex parenting that is nonetheless frequently cited on the Religious Right — helped launch a new group called the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, which has since been publishing his research on topics including pre-marital sex, divorce, religion among college students and masturbation.

According to tax records filed this summer, the Austin Institute receives much of its funding from one donor: New York hedge fund honcho and social conservative mega-donor Sean Fieler.

The 2013 tax return for Fieler’s Chiaroscuro Foundation reports two grants to the Austin Institute, totaling $250,000. Although the public copy of Chiaroscuro’s tax return obscures the dates of its fiscal year, the organization’s 2010 return indicates that its tax year runs from January through December.

Meanwhile, the Austin Institute’s return reports that it took in just $205,000 in contributions between February and June 2013, indicating that a significant portion of its initial funding came from Fieler’s charity.

Fieler’s funding of the Austin Institute shouldn’t come as a surprise. To begin with, he is a trustee of the Witherspoon Institute, the Princeton-based think tank that kicked in $700,000 for Regnerus’ now infamous “New Family Structures” study. The study claimed to show that children raised by gay and lesbian parents suffer all sorts of harmful consequences like drug use and abuse, despite only actually studying two people raised by same-sex couples.

According to the Austin Chronicle, the new group was quickly dubbed “Witherspoon Institute South” — a name stemming from its staff’s plentiful ties to the Witherspoon Institute and the Religious Right.

The Austin Institute grants were among the biggest expenditures last year by Fielder’s Chiaroscuro Foundation, many of which went to groups fighting marriage equality and abortion rights. This year, recipients include Americans United for Life ($20,000), the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty ($260,000), the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), which fights pro-choice and LGBT rights initiatives at the U.N. ($20,000), the National Abstinence Education Foundation ($50,000) and the Susan B. Anthony List ($40,000). As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, Fieler’s foundation also gave $50,000 last year to Morality in Media for its increasingly quixotic anti-porn campaign.

In 2012, the foundation gave $20,000 to the National Organization for Marriage, but seems to have snubbed the group in 2013.

The Chiaroscuro Foundation is just the beginning of Fieler’s influence: Last month, RH Reality Check delved in detail into Fieler’s political spending, including his funding of the American Principles Project and his hand in political races across the country.

While Regnerus’ research at the Austin Institute has so far made less of a splash than his faulty same-sex parenting study, he has continued to lend his voice to the effort to stop marriage equality, including testifying on behalf of a same-sex marriage ban in Michigan this year. (That move caused some of his UT colleagues to distance themselves from his work.)

The Austin Institute’s most noticeable contribution so far is a viral YouTube video applying a pop-economics veneer to the Religious Right’s favorite target, the sexual revolution. The video explains (in economic terms, of course) how contraception led to women turning against each other while men became video-game playing slobs — the only solution to which is for women to band together to withhold sex until marriage.

And the Austin Institute seems primed to provide more research to conveniently reinforce the Religious Right’s policy views — a solid investment for a donor like Fieler.

UPDATE: A reader points out that the Bradley Foundation, a conservative group that includes the Witherspoon Institute's Robert George on its board and that also helped to fund Regnerus' "New Family Structures" study, also reported a $100,000 grant to the Austin Institute last year.

Look Who Wants To Amend The Constitution Now: Ted Cruz Wants States' Rights Amendment on Marriage

Sen. Ted Cruz has spent the past several months railing against a proposed constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and related campaign-finance cases, which would restore to Congress and the states the ability to “set reasonable limits” on election spending.

Cruz has gone into full hyperbole mode over the amendment, claiming that the campaign to narrowly roll back what many legal experts believe is an erroneous interpretation of the First Amendment is in fact an effort to “repeal the First Amendment,silence pastors and imprison old ladies.

So, of course, it was no surprise at all yesterday to see Cruz himself proposing to amend the Constitution to reverse what he sees as an erroneous interpretation by the courts, this time on the issue of marriage. Roll Call reported on Cruz’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s "tragic" decision yesterday to decline hearing any marriage equality appeals, thus letting same-sex couples in several states get married:

While most Republicans shied away from commenting Monday on the Supreme Court’s historic decision to let stand a slew of lower court rulings legalizing gay marriage, Sen. Ted Cruz torched the court’s decision.

The Texas Republican called the decision “tragic and indefensible” and said he would introduce a constitutional amendment that would ensure states can ban gay marriage.

“By refusing to rule if the States can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution. The fact that the Supreme Court Justices, without providing any explanation whatsoever, have permitted lower courts to strike down so many state marriage laws is astonishing,” he said in a statement.

“It is beyond dispute that when the 14th Amendment was adopted 146 years ago, as a necessary post-Civil War era reform, it was not imagined to also mandate same-sex marriage, but that is what the Supreme Court is implying today. The Court is making the preposterous assumption that the People of the United States somehow silently redefined marriage in 1868 when they ratified the 14th Amendment,” he said.

“Nothing in the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the 14th Amendment or any other constitutional provision authorizes judges to redefine marriage for the Nation. It is for the elected representatives of the People to make the laws of marriage, acting on the basis of their own constitutional authority, and protecting it, if necessary, from usurpation by the courts.”

For the record, here is the section of the 14th Amendment that courts have been relying on to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Texas Supreme Court Justice: 'The Church Has Gone To Sleep' And Let Progressives Rule 'Every Facet of Government'

Texas Supreme Court Justice John Devine joined the “Faith & Liberty” program recently to discuss his originalist judicial philosophy, which he said reflects the “intent of the founders,” unlike that of the progressives who now — thanks to the negligence of the church — control “the White House and almost every facet of government.”

“How do you react when you hear the Constitution as a living and breathing document?” host Dave Garrison asked Devine.

“Well, it’s just not what the intent of the Founding Fathers was,” Devine replied. “It’s like the Ten Commandments, if we would just stick to those basic principles our nation would be far better off and we would once again be the light on the hill. And unfortunately, the church has gone to sleep, many Americans have gone to sleep and we have allowed those with these progressive ideas to have the White House and almost every facet of government.”

Texas GOPer Hints Of War At Border To Stop Immigrants From Taking 'Free Stuff'

Earlier this month, the Texas Observer dug up video of a speech given by Texas Republican state House candidate Tony Tinderholt — a Tea Party favorite who is expected to win and has received campaign help from Sen. Ted Cruz — sounding off about immigration at a July meeting.

Tinderholt said that “we are being thieved” by undocumented immigrants who are “taking the lifeblood of our country.” He conceded that immigrants want a better life, “but that better life for them is free stuff.”

He then suggested that the U.S. deploy the military to the southern border, starting a conflict in which “people are going to die.”

Watch the full video of Tinderholt’s remarks at the Texas Observer.

Ted Cruz Raises Money For Ted Cruz With Anti-Immigration Reform Campaign

Sen. Ted Cruz is out with a new effort today opposing President Obama’s possible executive action preventing the deportation of many undocumented immigrants living in the U.S…and in the process is raising money and collecting email addresses for Sen. Ted Cruz.

In a new website and online video, Cruz incorrectly links the crisis of unaccompanied minors at the southern border with Obama’s executive order deferring deportation for DREAMers. A voiceover in the online video says, “we cannot hope to address the crisis on the border without first addressing the fundamental cause of it,” before showing a still shot of someone climbing over the border fence.

But luckily, Cruz is here to save the day! “Senator Ted Cruz is leading the fight to secure the border, stop Obama’s amnesty and celebrate legal immigration,” he voiceover says.

The website, “StopObamasAmnesty.com,” then leads visitors to give Cruz’s fundraisers their email addresses and to donate to Cruz’s joint fundraising committee. The committee has raised over $4 million so far in this election cycle, much of it during the government shutdown that he orchestrated.

This summer, Cruz successfully lobbied a number of GOP House members to block a bill to handle the crisis of unaccompanied minors on the border. So, once again, Cruz is fundraising off a problem that he personally prevented the government from trying to solve.

h/t Center for New Community

Proposed Texas Textbooks Channel David Barton, Attribute US Government To Moses

Four years ago, the Texas State Board of Education made national headlines when it worked with Religious Right activists like David Barton to create a set of new textbook standards that played up the role of Christianity in the nation’s founding and played down the role of slavery in the Civil War, among other questionable changes.

According to our friends at the Texas Freedom Network , a new set of social studies textbooks up for approval from the state school board contain many flaws that “reflect the ideological beliefs of politicians on the state board rather than sound scholarship and factual history.”

TFN convened a panel of historians to review proposed textbooks and found that a number of the board’s faulty claims had been absorbed into proposed textbooks. For instance, a number of books followed the board’s advice in making vague claims about Moses as a direct influence on the framers of the Constitution — a claim straight out of David Barton’s pseudo-scholarship.

The material presented in these textbooks on this issue seems to have been determined more by political concerns than considerations of good scholarship. On the one hand, the decisions of these textbooks seem to have been strongly influenced by the suggestions and requirements of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). For instance, that the Texas SBOE suggested in the 2009-2010 debate over curriculum standards that Moses influenced the writing of the nation’s founding documents and that several textbooks mention Moses’ influence on the Founders seems to be no coincidence. On the other hand, the frequently vague nature of the textbooks’ statements about the influence of Moses and other religious ideas and figures on the Founders seems to indicate that the publishers did not want to be held accountable by scholars are those critical of SBOE’s standards. Unfortunately, the result of this at once overly controversial and overly careful strategy is the failure to provide students with an understanding of the influence of religion on our Founders that rests on sound scholarship and captures the diversity of the Founders’ views. These textbooks too often settle for giving students vague impressions about the Founders and religion while denying them the crucial information necessary to evaluate these claims. The SBOE and these textbooks have collaborated to make students’’ knowledge of American history a casualty of the culture wars.

Other concerns that TFN’s reviewers found in the textbooks include:

  • Some textbooks greatly exaggerate religious influences on the American founding, with some going so far as to suggest without substantiation that Moses was a major influence, that “the roots of democratic government” can be found in the Old Testament, and that “the biblical idea of a covenant … contributed to our constitutional structure.”
  • While the textbooks largely make clear that slavery was the central cause of the Civil War, some give nods to neo-Confederate arguments first promoted after the war that “states’ rights” was the driving issue. Some also downplay the serious hardships faced by African Americans during segregation.
  • Some textbooks reinforce negative stereotypes of Islam as a violent religion spread exclusively by conquest. One tells students, inaccurately, that “the spread of international terrorism is an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism,” ignoring the numerous examples of terrorism not related to Islam at all.
  • Some textbooks suffer from an incomplete and at times inaccurate coverage of religions other than Christianity. For example, one textbook teaches students, inaccurately, that all Hindus are vegetarians. On other hand, coverage of key Christian concepts and historical events are lacking in a few textbooks, often apparently due to the presumption that all students are Christians and already familiar with that information.
  • Reflecting concerns already noted about the curriculum standards by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a number of textbooks present an uncritical celebration of the free enterprise system. They downplay or even ignore legitimate problems in capitalism and the role government played in the growth of the American economy of the 1800s.
  • A number of U.S. History textbooks suffer from a general lack of attention to the experiences of Native American peoples and cultures and sometimes include biased or misleading information.
    One textbook includes a biased even offensive treatment critical of affirmative action, including cartoons that jokingly suggest space aliens would qualify.
  • Most textbooks offer scant coverage of the movement for LGBT equality, one of the salient civil rights struggles of the last half-century. One publisher links the gay rights movement of the late 1960s to society “spinning out of control.”

No, Ted Cruz, The #GetMoneyOut Amendment Wouldn't Censor SNL

Cross-posted from PFAW's blog.

Sen. Ted Cruz has been known to make some pretty outlandish comments about the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment being debated in the Senate which would overturn decisions like Citizens United, but his latest may take the cake. “Lorne Michaels [of Saturday Night Live] could be put in jail under this amendment for making fun of any politician,” Sen. Ted Cruz claimed on the floor of the Senate this week.

Luckily, a number of more grounded voices were able to set the record straight about Cruz’s wild and inaccurate remark. Last night, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said:

I think [Cruz] is wrong… This amendment is simply about restoring the old status quo about campaign contributions… I think his point…really has very little, if anything, to do with the constitutional amendment that the Senate is debating.

Amendment sponsor Sen. Tom Udall clarified that “[n]othing in the amendment would permit the arrest of anyone for engaging in political speech,” and pointed out that the proposal intends to bring the country’s campaign finance rules back to what they were in 1975, when Saturday Night Live began.

Other responders were a little more fiery, including former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, who on Monday published an op-ed with Sen. Udall in support of the Democracy for All Amendment. Simpson called Cruz’s remarks about Saturday Night Live “outrageous,” and urged Sen. Cruz to “read the damn amendment. That would be a wonderful thing.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders also joined the conversation on The Ed Show last night, noting that Sen. Cruz “sounds like he is on Saturday Night Live. It’s a very funny skit.” He pointed out that “Citizens United is a little over four years old; Saturday Night Live has been on the air for decades. And I don’t recall too many people on Saturday Night Live going to jail for making fun of politicians.” Sen. Sanders added that it’s a “preposterous argument” and “just another scare tactic.”

Indeed, as Sen. Udall said in a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, quoting People For the American Way President Michael Keegan:

‘A good rule of thumb in politics is that the scarier someone sounds, the more you should doubt what they’re saying.’ We heard some scary things in the last couple of days. Lorne Michaels is going to jail. And he’s sharing a cell with the little old lady who put up a $5 dollar political yard sign. Books and movies are banned. The NAACP, Sierra Club, and Moveon.org have been prohibited from speaking about politics. Scary stuff. But none of it is true. [emphasis added]

Here’s what is true: the proposed amendment is supported by 73 percent of voters, including a growing body of grassroots activists who have pushed for hundreds of state and local resolutions and who are making senators’ phones ring off the hook this week with thousands of calls expressing their support for fixing our democracy.

So if the best that amendment opponents like Sen. Cruz can do is to push wild-eyed myths about comedic producers being thrown in jail, it’s clear that the American people are winning this fight.
 

Louie Gohmert Reminds America 'It's Not Just Foreign People That Have Dreams'

In an appearance on the radio show “Point of View” last week, Rep. Louie Gohmert took issue with the use of the term “DREAMers” to refer to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

“People here need to understand, it’s not just foreign people that have dreams,” Gohmert said. “They say, ‘Oh, they’re the DREAMers.’ We’ve got children of our own that have dreams that will never be realized.”

Gohmert went on to compare the thousands of Central American children who have come to the southern border of the U.S. after fleeing drug-related violence in their home countries to North Korean defectors, who he said make a “good neighbor” by comparison.

“And I mentioned that I’ve met with North Koreans before, children and people that they want their families to be free,” he said. “But they’re not asking us to bring millions of people over from Korea. They’re saying, help us make our own country safer. That would be a good neighbor.”

Of course, while very few North Korean refugees have made it to the United States, there are tens of thousands living in neighboring China, which has built a fence along its North Korean border.

Rick Perry And Right Wing Relationship Problems?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry ran his campaigns for governor in close alliance with Religious Right leaders in the state, and he launched his 2012 presidential bid with a prayer rally organized by dominionist leaders. All that makes it a bit surprising that the “Take Back America” survey sent out by Perry’s political action committee RickPAC today does not ask about abortion, gay rights, or religious liberty, the big three of Religious Right groups’ organizing and fundraising efforts.

The email from Perry says “RickPAC is dedicated to electing conservatives who will work to secure our nation’s border, reduce the debt for future generations, and – unlike so many in Washington – focus on achieving results.” The survey asks recipients to choose “the top three issues that you believe are most important to people in your community.” The options given are:

  • Taxes
  • Securing our border
  • Economy & Jobs
  • Military & Veteran Affairs
  • Government spending
  • 2nd Amendment Rights
  • Healthcare & Obamacare costs

A second question asks whether unemployment, high taxes, the cost of health care, or something else is the most important economic issue facing America today. Rounding out the survey are two yes-or-no questions asking whether low taxes promote economic growth and whether electing conservative candidates is important to getting America back on track.

The survey may reflect Perry strategists’ belief that potential donors to his PAC are more motivated by Tea Party issues than traditional social issues – as well as the fact that some Religious Right leaders and GOP strategists have been working hard to convince conservative evangelicals that lower taxes and small government are religious issues just like opposition to abortion and gay rights.

Perry may have a hard time mobilizing supporters for a second presidential bid, and not only because fellow Texan Ted Cruz is now a hero to right-wing activists. In the Washington Times on Monday, right-wing columnist Steve Deace slammed Perry in a column that began, “Hey, did you hear about the Republican governor running for president in 2016 who just hired two of the GOP consultants conservatives loathe the most?”

Deace said conservatives have been giving the “new” Rick Perry a second look, and were liking what they saw. But he says Perry has blown it by hiring Henry Barbour and Steven Schmidt, two consultants he says “rank in the top two of just about every grassroots conservative’s excrement list.” Deace quotes Richard Viguerie saying recently that “Governor Perry’s friends are the enemies of conservatives.”

Deace faults Barbour for using “despicable Obama/Alinsky type” tactics in helping Thad Cochran beat Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel in a hotly contested Senate primary. And he slams Schmidt for criticizing Tea Party “kooks” and for working to get Republicans to endorse marriage equality.

“That means Mr. Perry, who began his 2012 presidential campaign with a national call to repentance (from sin) and the backing of several Christian conservative leaders, is now taking counsel from a guy that wants to celebrate what Christians believe to be immoral.”

Speaking of 2012, there’s some fine print at the bottom of the RickPAC email:

This email was sent by: Romney for President Inc., 138 Conant St., 1st Floor, Beverly, MA 01915.

This message reflects the opinions and representations of RickPAC, Inc., and is not an endorsement by Mitt Romney. You are receiving this email because you signed up as a member of Mitt Romney's online community …

 

How Catherine Engelbrecht Got Greg Abbott To Shut Down A Houston Voter Registration Drive

This weekend, the Dallas Morning News ran a long investigative piece exposing for the first time an armed raid that state Attorney General Greg Abbott's office ordered on a Houston voter registration operation, Houston Votes, back in 2010. The aftermath played out like ACORN in miniature: Despite the fact that nobody at Houston Votes was charged with any wrongdoing, the organization folded under the pressure of Abbott’s investigation.

The story provides an interesting look at the mechanics of the GOP’s obsessive search for certain types of extraordinarily rare voter fraud in order to justify extreme measures making it harder to cast a ballot. And it also stars two people who have since become familiar names in the national effort to make it more difficult to vote: Abbott, who is now the GOP nominee for governor of Texas, and Catherine Engelbrecht, who now runs the national group True the Vote, but who got her start running a Texas Tea Party group called King Street Patriots.

The raid on Houston Votes was part of a larger campaign by Abbott to uncover what he calls an “epidemic” of voter fraud, in an apparent effort to build support for a restrictive Voter ID law in Texas. Abbott’s campaign hasn’t exactly been a success: According to MSNBC’s Zach Roth, “over the 13 years of Abbott’s tenure, his office can only cite two fraudulent votes that might have been stopped by the ID law.” In the meantime, Abbott’s effort has resulted in some strangely zealous prosecutions, including those of a group of Tea Party activists who tried to cast protest votes in a resident-less utility district.

Dallas Morning News reporter James Drew explains how a racially charged speech by Engelbrecht led to Abbot’s investigation of and raid on Houston Votes:

On an overcast Monday afternoon, officers in bulletproof vests swept into a house on Houston’s north side. The armed deputies and agents served a search warrant. They carted away computers, hard drives and documents.

The raid targeted a voter registration group called Houston Votes, which was accused of election fraud. It was initiated by investigators for Attorney General Greg Abbott. His aides say he is duty-bound to preserve the integrity of the ballot box.

His critics, however, say that what Abbott has really sought to preserve is the power of the Republican Party in Texas. They accuse him of political partisanship, targeting key Democratic voting blocs, especially minorities and the poor, in ways that make it harder for them to vote, or for their votes to count.

A close examination of the Houston Votes case reveals the consequences when an elected official pursues hotly contested allegations of election fraud.

The investigation was closed one year after the raid, with no charges filed. But for Houston Votes, the damage was done. Its funding dried up, and its efforts to register more low-income voters ended. Its records and office equipment never were returned. Instead, under a 2013 court order obtained by Abbott’s office, they were destroyed.

Fred Lewis formed Texans Together in 2006.

The nonprofit community organizing group used volunteers to register voters in 2008 under the name Houston Votes. It registered only about 6,000 people that year.

For the next big election, in 2010, Lewis wanted to register 100,000 new voters in Harris County. He knew he couldn’t hit that number with volunteers. Houston Votes decided to use paid workers.

By that summer, Houston Votes had come to the attention of the King Street Patriots, a Houston-based tea party group. At the group’s regular meeting in Houston, its leader, Catherine Engelbrecht, talked about the New Black Panther Party. She then played a Fox news clip of an unidentified black man saying: “We have to exterminate white people off the face of the planet.”

The clip was 5 years old. It came from a forum in Washington about media coverage of Hurricane Katrina. But after the clip ended, Engelbrecht showed a picture of a house in Houston. She said it was the office of the New Black Panthers, at Main and Dowling streets.

Dowling Street is infamous for a 1970 gun battle between police officers and African-American militants, one of whom was killed.

“Houston has a new neighbor,” Engelbrecht said. She added that a person outside the house appeared to be an employee of Houston Votes.

The house shown on the screen was the office of Houston Votes. It had nothing to do with the New Black Panther Party. And it was about 9 miles from Dowling Street.

Two weeks later, the King Street Patriots held another meeting. Paul Bettencourt, the former Harris County tax assessor-collector, was a guest speaker.

He said Houston Votes was worse at registering voters than ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Dozens of ACORN employees across the nation were convicted of voter registration fraud.

The next day, Bettencourt’s successor as tax assessor-collector, fellow Republican Leo Vasquez, held a news conference.

“The integrity of the voter roll of Harris County, Texas, appears to be under an organized and systematic attack by the group operating under the name ‘Houston Votes,’” he said.

Houston Votes had submitted about 25,000 voter registration applications. Vasquez said many were duplicates, or already registered. Only 7,193 were “apparently new voters,” he said.

Houston Votes later pointed to public records showing that at the time of the news conference, about 21,000 of the 25,000 who applied to register were already validated by the county and pending final approval by the secretary of state. Among those 21,000, the state had already given final approval to 7,193.

Vasquez announced he was referring the matter for “investigation and possible prosecution” to the Texas secretary of state and the Harris County district attorney.

The secretary of state, who advises local election officials on election laws, forwarded Vasquez’s information to the attorney general’s office on Sept. 14, 2010.

Abbott’s office opened a criminal investigation soon after.

Cathie Adams: People Are Fleeing Marriage Equality States

Cathie Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum suggested last week that people are leaving states like Massachusetts for Texas as a result of their different marriage laws, and advised gay Texans and their supporters to simply leave the state.

During the Texas Values anti-gay press conference, Adams said that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is a reason for its population growth: “Texas is the fastest growing state in the nation and there is a reason for that, and part of that reason is traditional marriage.”

She continued:

This is good for Texas families. We do not accept the homosexual agenda, that is what we are talking about here. If those who embrace that homosexual agenda want to move to a state that does embrace homosexual marriage, there is a state of Massachusetts that they could move to. But we are finding is that they’re not moving to Massachusetts, what is happening is that Massachusetts is declining in numbers, people are moving out of that state. So why in the world would Texas, that is growing and the fastest growing, want to join Massachusetts, that is declining. People are moving away, they are voting with their feet, out of Massachusetts. Yet, there are liberals who are trying to influence all of us in places like Hollywood and San Francisco. They want to change Texas.

Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly has similarly claimed that “many Americans are dissenting with their feet, by moving away from same-sex marriage states and into the many states that continue to recognize the value of marriage as being between only one man and one woman.”

Charles Flowers: Gays 'Seek Special Rights' To 'Persecute' Conservatives

The Religious Right group Texas Values announced its support last week for Texas’ appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after a district court judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Pastor Charles Flowers, who vigorously opposed an anti-discrimination ordinance in San Antonio, joined Jonathan Saenz and other conservative activists to support the appeal and denounce what he called the “HLGC” community: “homosexual, lesbian and gender confused.”

Flowers said that the ban should be upheld as constitutional “because it is Texas law” and “because it is based on the notion that those who choose to practice a certain lifestyle cannot change and yet the preponderance of the evidence refutes that claim.”

In fact, he positioned himself as a spokesman for civil rights activists and proclaimed “a divorce between the Civil Rights Movement and the HLGC agenda citing irreconcilable differences.”

Later, he warned that gays “seek special rights and a protected opportunity to punish and persecute anyone not in agreement with their lifestyle choice.”

Louie Gohmert: Pro-Immigration Groups Are 'Questioning Your Manhood'

First they cast aspersions on his asparagus; now Rep. Louie Gohmert’s critics are “questioning [his] manhood,” the Texas Republican reported today.

At the end of an interview with the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios today, Gohmert lamented that immigration reform proponents, such as the Chamber of Commerce, have tried to “get people belittling” him.

“Sometimes it feels like that Sandy, that you’ve got all these forces against you, you’ve got the chamber, tens of millions of dollars coming and trying to influence people against you and get people belittling you, questioning your manhood,” he said.

“Really? That’s never worked and it doesn’t, but it gets a little frustrating at times.”

Rep. Steve Stockman: GOP Wants To Arrest Lois Lerner Because She's 'A Word That Rhymes With Witch'

Rep. Steve Stockman is beginning to think that his plan to impeach President Obama might be bad politics, so is now moving on to the brilliant plan of arresting former IRS official Lois Lerner for being what he calls “a word that rhymes with witch.”

In an interview with Newsmax’s Steve Malzberg yesterday, the Texas Republican said that while he still thinks President Obama has “done impeachable offenses,” he now sees that the president is “trying to use people like myself” to start impeachment proceedings that would reflect poorly on Republicans.

So, Stockman said, he’s focusing his efforts before the summer recess on pushing a House vote to arrest Lerner, a move which he may be able to take without the approval of GOP leadership.

When Malzberg asked him whether he thinks his arrest motion would garner the support of his fellow Republicans, Stockman replied, “Well, they said some things about jail and a word that rhymes with witch sometimes to me.”

He went on to criticize Lerner for being “insolent,” “in no way compliant,” and having “total disrespect for Congress.”

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