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Spring into action now

From: Marsha C.
Sent on: Saturday, April 14, 2007 2:31 AM
I'm pasting two e-mail I sent out to progressive friends in the last couple of days. I thought y'all might want to be alerted to the threats to democracy at the Capitol.

Please make the calls to get your state representative to vote against HB 1278 and HB 3678.  Please call Chisum's office and all the members of the Public Education Committee also.

Democratically yours,

=============== first e-mail alert ===============

What is it about "mind your own business" that Rep. Warren Chisum doesn't understand?  Why does he feel it's necessary to socially engineer Texans' lives?  He's wasted the taxpayers' money this entire session filing and pushing frivolous bills.  With HB 1287, he's attempting to force Protestant religion onto our high school students thinly disguised as literature and history.  How can anybody take this man seriously? 

Chisum's bill is just one of his many timewasters this session.  It would mandate that every public high school in Texas - 1,040 schools - offer a Bible study course if 15 or more students want to take it.  These high schools are supported by Texans who are devotees of hundreds, maybe thousands, of religious sects.  See the problem here?  I knew you would.

If there's such a great market for the Bible to be taught to high school students, why isn't a local church already providing this service as an after-school activity?  If parents are so keen to have their children learn the Bible, why aren't they taking them to Sunday school and church?  And prayer meeting on Wednesday night?

The church is the appropriate venue for Bible study.  It would be highly discriminatory to select the holy book of one religion and neglect the holy books of all the others.  It would be unconstitutional for a taxpayer-supported public school to devote any manpower, facility or any other public funds to providing this course.  The Texas Constitution forbids it.  Read it at:

There would be peer pressure to fit in.  Some students would be singled out for harassment because their religions don't recognize the Bible as anything other than a book of fairy tales. 

Please call Warren Chisum - [masked] - and tell him to mind his own business and stay out of Texans' personal and religious decisions.  Tell him to allow parents to make religious choices for their children without input at public school.  And tell him to stop wasting Texas taxpayers' money on this ill-conceived bill and his other intrusions into our private lives.

If you'd like to see what else Chisum is up to, click here:
You may want to call or write or e-mail him about some of the other bills he's authored.
I wonder how Chisum would take it if I arrived at his church on Sunday morning with a stack of high school textbooks demanding to use church time and facilities to teach academic subjects.  Just a thought....

Democratically yours,

========end first e-mail - begin second e-mail===============

Here's an update on the bill about which I wrote you yesterday.  It's time to make calls to the numbers listed below.  Please also call your representative and urge her/him to vote against HB 1287.  If you already called, ask a friend, neighbor or relative to step up and speak up, too.  By the way, you don't need to live in the district of a member of the Public Education Committee (or any other committee) to call them.  We're all constituents of the committee members.

While you have their legislative aides on the phone, you may want to mention that you object to HB 3678 on the grounds listed below - or come up with your own grounds, especially constitutional grounds - and ask the representative to oppose it as well.

My objection to TFN's stance on HB 1287 is that I'm opposed to adding safeguards.  Instead, we need to keep religion completely out of non-sectarian, public schools.  We'll save ourselves a lot of discord if we just reject Chisum's bill now.  Imagine the court cases which would clog our courts when parents began filing lawsuits.  Ordinary taxpayers would also qualify to file lawsuits, since it would be their tax-supported schools which would be teaching religion in the taxpayer-built and -maintained classrooms.  Public school employees, paid by our taxes, would be pressed into service to record the students' grades.

This evil must be defeated before it takes hold of our schools.  Once these bills get passed, we'll never get rid of them.  It's extremely rare for a statute to be repealed without court action.

Democratically yours,

X-Apparently-To: [address removed] via[masked]; Fri, 13 Apr 2007 15:21:20 -0700
X-Originating-IP: []
Authentication-Results:; domainkeys=neutral (no sig)
X-Originating-IP: []
Date: 13 Apr[masked]:08:09 -0000
From: "Texas Freedom Network" <[address removed]>
To: "Marsha Correira" <[address removed]>
Subject: TFN Legislative Update - April 13, 2007
Reply-to: [address removed]
TFN Legislative Update
Religious Freedom and Public Schools
Legislation involving religious freedom in Texas public schools has been the focus of headlines out of Austin the past two weeks. Two proposed bills make it clear that far-right lawmakers are seeking new opportunities to promote their own narrow religious agenda in our neighborhood schools.

Last week TFN President Kathy Miller urged members of the House Public Education Committee to add critical safeguards to a proposed bill mandating Bible classes in the state?s public high schools. Courts have permitted such courses so long as they are not used to promote or disparage any particular religious perspective. But H.B. 1287 by state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, includes no requirements on academic qualifications and constitutional training for teachers of such courses. In addition, the bill designates the Bible as the required textbook and forbids state education officials from developing any standards for instructional materials. The lack of those and other safeguards threatens the religious freedom of students and puts in legal jeopardy school districts across the state. In fact, Kathy pointed to a TFN Education Fund report in September 2006 that revealed how Bible classes already taught in Texas public schools are really more about the religious beliefs of the teacher than a truly academic study of the Bible. Committee members have not yet voted on H.B. 1287.

Read a news article about Rep. Chisum?s bill.
Read an opinion column about the bill.
Read TFN's press release on the bill.

This week the House State Affairs Committee heard testimony on a bill that supporters said would protect religious expression by students. TFN testified, however, that H.B. 3678 by state Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, may actually create more problems for our public schools. Courts have already affirmed that the First Amendment protects religious expression in public schools. Instead of providing better training for school districts on this important issue, however, Rep. Howard seeks to sweep a complicated court case history into one catch-all bill. Kathy pointed out that the bill may give officials a false sense of security when it comes to decisions about organized prayer and other forms of religious expression in their schools. She also warned that the bill may result in students being forced to participate in school functions at which other students are permitted to promote their own religious views. Even so, the State Affairs Committee passed the bill on to the full House.

Read a news article about Rep. Howard?s bill.
Stem Cell Research
The House State Affairs Committee this week also considered legislation on stem cell research in Texas. In hearings that lasted until the wee hours of the morning today, committee members heard testimony from Kathy and others urging lawmakers to support embryonic and adult stem cell research. This promising medical research gives hope to families suffering from serious medical conditions such as spinal cord injuries, Parkinson?s disease and juvenile diabetes. Kathy told committee members that TFN strongly opposes the only House legislation, H.B. 225, that would bar public funding for embryonic stem cell research. She also delivered the names of 1,700 Texans who have already signed on to TFN's petition/postcard campaign in support of stem cell research. The committee took no votes on stem cell legislation.

Take Action

Add your voice to thousands of other mainstream Texans who are working with TFN for religious freedom and responsible medical research in Texas.

If you have not already done so, click here to sign up for a TFN Rapid Response Team today.

Sign TFN?s stem cell research petition and sign up to be a postcard captain!

Your help is especially important on protecting religious freedom in our public schools. If you live in the district of a member of the House Public Education Committee, please contact him or her about H.B. 1287, the bill on high school Bible classes. Urge your representative to support adding critical safeguards to the bill:
- Require appropriate academic qualifications and First Amendment training for teachers,
- Require standards for instructional materials based on sound scholarship
- Require the Texas Education Agency monitor and report on the content of these classes
- Add stronger language protecting the religious freedom of students
- Allow local districts to decide for themselves whether to offer classes on the Bible

House Public Education Committee
Rep. Rob Eissler, chair,[masked] (voice),[masked] (fax)
Rep. Bill Zedler, vice chair,[masked] (v),[masked] (f)
Rep. Dan Branch,[masked] (v),[masked] (f)
Rep. Harold V. Dutton, Jr.,[masked] (v),[masked] (f)
Rep. Scott Hochberg. [masked] (v),[masked] (f)
Rep. Anna Mowery,[masked] (v),[masked] (f)
Rep. Dora Olivo,[masked] (v),[masked] (f)
Rep. Diane Patrick,[masked] (v),[masked] (f)
Rep. Dianne White Delisi,[masked] (v),[masked] (f)

Click here if you do not know the name of your representative.

Next Week
A proposed voucher scheme for students with autism could be heard in the Senate as early as next week. Keep an eye out for alerts from TFN regarding any action in the Senate on this bill, S.B. 1000.

The Texas Freedom Network advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the radical right.
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