“Under God” License Plate Now Available

April 2, 2012

One State Under God Texas license plateThe “One State Under God” license plate, which features a picture of Calvary Hill, is now available for order online from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. A portion of the proceeds will go to a nonprofit ministry in East Texas that supports outreach to at-risk children.  You can order the license plate here.

While some extreme liberal activist groups, like Texas Freedom Network, were in favor of banning the plates and allowing the government to exclude a person’s private choice to express their strongly held religious beliefs, these groups are simply out of the mainstream of Texas values. The phrase “One State Under God” was almost unanimously passed by the Texas Legislature and added to the Texas Pledge in 2007.  The purchase and design of a specialty license plate is a private decision and a private endeavor that merely passes through the DMV as one of many private or public arrangements that Texas participates in with the public. In this debate on the “Under God” license plate, the left simply continues to show part of its true agenda is to attack private choices of free expression and speech, especially when they are expressions of a strongly held religious belief, particularly Christianity.

Liberty Institute testified in favor of the “One State Under God” license plate, which passed the Texas DMV board in December of last year. See our press release from last December here.

War on Christmas comes to Henderson County

December 16, 2011

Athens_Tx_Nativity_Henderson_CountyIf Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sounds familiar to you, it’s likely because they are the same atheist group currently behind the attacks on the Tenth Mountain Division’s Big Mountain Jesus statue in Whitefish, Montana, the veterans memorial, that Liberty Institute is defending. They are also the same group that earlier this year filed suit against Governor Perry and the Houston Prayer rally and lost.  It seems FFRF is also investing much of their energy into waging war on Christmas, with the latest attack taking place in Athens, Texas in Henderson County.

In Henderson County, FFRF sent a demand letter to county officials demanding that they remove a nativity scence from the courthouse square. The County correctly responded to FFRF that the nativity scene was constitutional under established U.S. Supreme Court precedent.  The group also made known their plans to post a sign reading “At this Season of the Winter Solstice, LET REASON PREVAIL.” The banner goes on to state that religion is a “myth and superstition.” Fortunately, local pastors and Christians are taking a stand against the false claims by FFRF and will be holding a rally at the courthouse this Saturday, December 17, 2011.

Pastor Nathan Lorick of First Baptist Church in Malakoff, a neighboring town to Athens stated in a recent article that “The point that I’m standing on is that we are seeing persecution on Christianity on the rise in America and I think there’s some great examples of that even recently, one being what we are going through,” he said. “Christianity for far too long has been the silent majority. We need to stand up and speak up in love, but with conviction. We believe enough in our God and we believe enough in our faith that we need to take a stand for what we believe in.”

Pastor Lorick, who will be officiating the rally on Saturday, really hit the nail on the head.  As we have seen with our stand on the “Under God” license plate, unless Christians stand up for their rights, the left will continue to try to chip away at our religious freedom piece by piece.  We applaud the folks from Henderson County and from across the state that will be standing up for religious freedom this Saturday.

Update: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has put out a statement offering support to the Henderson County Judge over the challenge to the Courthouse Nativity Scene.  See the statement here.

“Under God” License Plate Debate Continues

December 15, 2011

Update 2: Here is video of the debate on CNN

Update 1:  Today’s (12-16) CNN interview has been moved up to 12:00 p.m. Be sure to tune in.

This morning on KTRH 740 in Houston, Liberty Institute’s Director of Legislative Affairs, Jonathan Saenz, debated Kathy Miller, President of the extreme liberal group Texas Freedom Network, on the recent “One State under God” license plate that was passed last week by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board.  The Texas Freedom Network and other liberal groups had launched an unsuccessful campaign to defeat the plate.

You can listen to the exchange below:

Be sure to catch Jonathan and Mrs. Miller live on CNN tomorrow at 12:15 p.m. debating this issue again.  It should be an interesting debate so be sure to tune in.

In a related story, an opinion piece in the LA Times actually argues we should ban all specialty license plates and even states that “states might want to consider banning bumper stickers…”  I thought the left was for free speech?  In this debate on the “Under God” license plate, the left really continues to show part of its true agenda is to attack our private choices of free expression and speech, especially when they are expressions of a strongly held religious belief, particularly Christianity.

“Under God” License Plate Is Mainstream Texas, Period

December 9, 2011

Texas_Flag One State under God

The “One State under God” plate is a reflection of Texas voters and Texas values, as well as Texas’ support for the private religious speech of all in this state.  A purchase and design of a specialty license plate is, after all, a private decision and a private endeavor that merely passes through the DMV as one of many private/public arrangements that Texas participates in with the public.  Approval of the “One State Under God” specialty plate is not controversial, as some media are now trying to spin the story (see the Statesman story and Fort Worth Star-Telegram story).

In the state of Texas, the phrase “One State under God” is, in fact, decidedly noncontroversial and widely supported.  The phrase was added to the pledge to the Texas Flag in 2007 by the Texas Legislature (HB 1034) and supported by Liberty Institute, with only one elected official voting against it.  The vote in the Texas Senate was unanimous.  In the Texas House, the vote was almost unanimous, with Democrat Donna Howard being the only Texas House member to vote against the phrase.

In 2010, the fifth circuit federal court of appeals upheld the phrase “One State under God” in the Texas pledge as constitutional, after it was challenged by a couple from Dallas.  Liberty Institute was also a part of this victory.

Further, the appearance of one or more crosses on a specialty license plate is not controversial.  The following specialty license plates are available in Texas with one or more crosses: El Paso Mission Valley, University of St. Thomas, and Southwestern University.  The University of Mary Hardin Baylor uses a church graphic for its specialty plate.  There over 130 specialty license plates in Texas that can be purchased by a private individual with a wide variety of messages and symbols.  I don’t remember any stories being written or any so-called “controversy” when those plates were approved.

What is controversial is how common place it has become for some activist groups to target and attack individuals and elected officials based on their personal religious beliefs, particularly Christians.  Texas Freedom Network is one group engaged in this type of behavior and they don’t even hide it, as their mission statement says they “counter the religious right.”  It’s also controversial that the media seems to give these types of groups a pass, because I guess us Christians should just turn the other cheek.

The reality is, the phrase “One State under God” is not controversial for Texas, at all.

The “Under God” plate is a reflection of Texas voters and Texas values, period.  An issue does not become “controversial” just because extreme liberal groups like Texas Freedom Network and Americans United for Separation of Church and State once again choose to attack a person’s private choice to express their strongly held religious beliefs, particularly Christianity, and see this as an opportunity to create division along political lines. These extreme liberal activist groups continue to lose at the legislature, state boards, and the ballot box, and the latest stinging loss over the “Under God” plate is just the most recent example of how out of touch they are with the mainstream and with Texas & American values in general.

See Liberty Institute’s press release on the Texas DMV passing the “One State under God” plate from yesterday here.

Lobbyist, Gay Republican Highlight Texas SBOE Races For Now

November 21, 2011

With all 15 State Board of Education (SBOE) seats on the ballot next year, there will be a lot of talk about the SBOE, particularly by the liberal media and the extreme liberal group Texas Freedom Network, known for regularly losing battles at the SBOE.  Through the election season, we can certainly count on both the media and TFN to continue their attempts to denigrate the board, particularly its conservative members.

Lobbyist, Moderate Republican Ratliff Faces Primary Challenge

There are two races that will likely get the most attention, in our opinion. First, the re-election bid of the only registered lobbyist on the SBOE, Thomas Ratliff, a moderate Republican will be closely watched and discussed.  Mr. Ratliff is still serving in his first term and has probably received more attention and drawn the most scrutiny of any other newly elected SBOE member because of his role as a paid lobbyist in Texas, for clients such as Microsoft.  Thomas Ratliff’s role as a lobbyist resulted in the Texas Attorney General researching the matter and concluding that a registered lobbyist who is paid to lobby on matters relating to SBOE business is, by law, ineligible to serve on the SBOE.  The lobbyist issue came up immediately in Mr. Ratliff’s first round of meetings serving on the SBOE in 2011, when he chose to recuse himself from an SBOE meeting to avoid a conflict of interest.

Mr. Ratliff is being challenged in the Republican primary by Randy Stevenson, a former SBOE member himself.  Mr. Ratliff proudly professes to be a moderate Republican. Mr. Ratliff achieved a narrow primary victory in 2010 over the conservative leader, Don McLeroy, by a mere 402 votes, out of 116,000.

Republican Incumbent Clayton Announces He’s Gay, Challenger is SBOE Veteran

Second, George Clayton’s effort for re-election is sure to draw a lot of attention as he tries to hang on to the seat he won in 2010 from longtime SBOE member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller.  Mrs. Miller had served on the SBOE for over 25 years prior to her narrow defeat by Mr. Clayton in the 2010 Republican primary, by a 52% – 48% margin.  Mr. Clayton was considered a relative unknown compared to Ms. Miller.  Ms. Miller is now the challenger and appears very determined to win back this seat.  We have received numerous reports from our grassroots friends in the Dallas area that confirm that Ms. Miller is working very hard to secure support.

Now that Mr. Clayton has served nearly two years on the SBOE and has come out as gay (Mr. Clayton revealed recently that he in fact has a “male partner that lives with me”), voters may have a better idea of where he stands on important issues.  Mr. Clayton revealing this information now about his sexual orientation is expected to draw a lot of attention to this Republican primary race with sex education curriculum on the SBOE’s agenda for next year.

Moderate Republican Craig Vacates His Seat, Endorses Carlise

Other races of interest are the seat vacated by longtime moderate Republican, Bob Craig.  Mr. Craig was a holdout on numerous key votes on the Science and Social Studies standards, often losing his initial efforts to defeat conservatives and then working compromises and changing his vote to side with conservatives when the outcomes were inevitable.  Mr. Craig and fellow moderate Thomas Ratliff have already endorsed their preference for his seat, Anette Carlisle, an Amarillo I.S.D. school board member. Mrs. Carlisle has been described as looking to continue Craig’s more moderate approach.

Republican Farney Seeks House Seat, SBOE Seat Trends Solid Red

Dr. Marsha Farney, still serving in her first SBOE term, has also announced that she will not run again.  Dr. Farney considers herself a “common sense conservative,” but the media often labels her a “moderate Republican.”  This open seat is also sure to attract some attention, but in 2010 Dr. Farney, running as a conservative, handed her liberal Democrat opponent a huge defeat, by a 56% – 40% margin in a district that included a large portion of the City of Austin and Travis County.

The Rest: Mercer, Cargill Expected to Hold, Democrat Berlanga Leaves Seat Up for Grabs

Conservative leaders, Ken Mercer and SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill, have also reportedly drawn primary challengers but are expected to hold their seats. Mr. Mercer secured victory by an enormous margin in 2010 (69% – 31%), when he was challenged by well-funded lobbyist, Tim Tuggey, in the 2010 Republican primary and Mercer soundly defeated liberal Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau (59% – 36%) in the general election, in a district that included South Austin and Travis County.

Mary Helen Berlanga, a longtime Democrat SBOE member from Corpus Christi will also not seek reelection.  She’s just a Democrat though, as it seems the media does not typically use qualifiers or other modifiers like “liberal” or “left wing” when they describe Democrat SBOE members, even though you’ll see the media use numerous words to describe the type of Republicans on the SBOE.  But for Democrats, they are just Democrats.  So are we to conclude that all of the Democrats on the SBOE are liberal and left-wing?  Something to think about.  It is safe to say that Ms. Berlanga could be considered one of the most liberal members of the SBOE, as she fought time and again to have Dolores Huerta, an avowed Socialist, included in our Social Studies standards as a model for good citizenship for students, twice.  That’s right, the fight was not over Dolores Huerta being including in the Texas History standards at all.  She was.  No, Ms. Berlanga would not be satisfied unless the Socialist was covered twice.  She lost this battle and many others, thankfully.

Conservative Republican Charile Garza, from the greater El Paso area is expected to have a fight on his hands to keep his seat as the new map approved as a result of redistricting points towards less conservative support, based on the opinion of many.  Garza, a long-time educator and decorated military veteran, pulled off a shocking victory in 2010, over 20-year SBOE member, Democrat Rene Nunez.

Liberal Democrat Michael Soto is also seeking election to a second term.  Now that his affiliations to far left groups like Texas Freedom Network and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are more well known, it will be interesting to see if he has a closer race this time around.

Liberty Institute will once again have a Voters Guide with the SBOE candidates’ responses to our questionnaire, available in early February of 2012.

It should be an interesting time for the SBOE heading into election season.

Texas Higher Education Board Distances Itself from Attack Report on Texas Social Studies Standards

November 11, 2011

Not So Fast! Just days after a member of academia released a report criticizing isolated parts of the K-12 Texas Social Studies standards adopted last year, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has set the record straight.  Extreme Austin liberal groups, like Texas Freedom Network, attempted to credit the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) with the report, but the THECB quickly dismissed such affiliation and credit for the report by sending a very sharply worded press release out of their own.

See the THECB release here.

Seems the THECB wanted to make it very clear that they had nothing to do with this report written by some member of academia?  What could it be about this report that has the THECB so concerned?

We’ll look into this more closely and get back to you with more details as there wasn’t much of a story here until the THECB smartly distanced themselves from this report.

Catch Liberty Institute at the Texas Tribune Festival on Sunday debating the SBOE

September 23, 2011

Liberty Institute’s Director of Legislative Affairs, Jonathan Saenz will speak this weekend at the Texas Tribune Festival.  The Festival is a weekend of debate, discussion and dialogue regarding politics and public policy. It takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 24-25 at the University of Texas at Austin. Find out more or register here.

Jonathan Saenz frequently presents testimony in defense of conservative values before the Texas Legislature and the State Board of Education.  He will be taking part in the panel discussing:  “What Now for the State Board of Education?” The discussion promises to be lively because the panel also includes Kathy Miller of the liberal Texas Freedom Network, a group that targets people and elected officials for their religious beliefs (and usually loses policy votes too).  Former Chairman of the SBOE, Don McLeroy, and current SBOE member, Thomas Ratliff, will also be on the panel.

The panel discussion is Sunday, September 25 at 10:15 AM at the Student Activities Center Auditorium, 2201 Speedway, in Austin.

For a preview of the panel discussion, check out Jonathan sweeping the floor with Kathy Miller when debating the history standards on CNN last year.


Victory at State Board of Education: Unanimous Vote to Require Changes to Errors related Evolution

July 22, 2011
Victory! SBOE unanimously votes to require changes to errors in science materials, related to evolution, before adoption.
Austin Liberals fail again.

Live Blogging State Bd of Ed Meeting; Science Censorship v. Evolution

July 21, 2011

Grade 5 science materials approved.  Grade 6 science materials approved.  Grade 7 science materials approved.  Grade 8 science materials approved.  High School: Chemisty publisher gets requirement to change errors before it can go into classroom

High School Physics: approves commissioners recommendations.

High School Integrated Physics and Chemistry: approved.

Now to … Biology:   Holt publisher, motion to correct the errors.  Adaptive Curriculum-Lowe wants error corrected with Haeckel’s embyro to be removed.

16 binders of errors for supplemental science materials submitted by publishers.

SBOE science testifier says Intelligent Design leads to “Christian Taliban.” Wow, real extremists here that bow at altar of evolution #sboe
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SBOE member Craig reminding testifier that International Database curriculum is not on the approved list, eligible for a vote.#sboe #txlege
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ACLU is for censorship? Seems like it.SBOE member Clayton pins them down. ACLU hasn’t read TEKS. Bradley and Garza pile on. #txlege #sboe
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ACLU basically says the SBOE will be sued (by them?) if they cross some magical line in adopting science materials. #txlege #sboe
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SBOE hearing turns from attack of creationism (that’s not even n materials), to evolutionists defending theory from criticism. Nice. #sboe
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One after one, scientists testifying about their concern for the errors in the science materials submitted to the SBOE. #sboe #txlege
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Picture of 16 binders of errors found in science materials submitted to TX SBOE, to send to classroom.

This portion of meeting has not begun.  Check our facebook page (Liberty Institute – Texas) and twitter account (@JonathansaenzLI) for quicker updates.

Hearing Today on SBOE Bill, Texas State Board Of Education In Question

March 29, 2011

HB 862, by Republican Rep. Diane Patrick, will be heard today by House Public Education.  We’ll be testifying against this bill.  This is the bill that was voted down by the House last session, HB 710.

Planned Parenthood front group, Texas Freedom is a liberal advocacy group that frequently attacks the Republican, conservative State Board of Education (SBOE) members because of their religious beliefs and personal choices.

Texas Freedom Network supports HB 862 and has now indicated their support on their website. http://www.tfn.org/site/DocServer/SBOE.pdf?docID=2403

Planned Parenthood & Texas Freedom Network Team Up to Push Drug-Based Sex Education;Business As Usual

March 8, 2011

Planned Parenthood and Texas Freedom Network teamed up today to promote drug-based sex education by supporting legislation that attacks abstinence and requires school to teach about U.S. FDA “approved” birth control methods, other than abstinence, if they teach sex ed at all.  I say drug-based, because so many of these methods include drugs as part of the artificial mechanism they push in front of kids as okay, even though none of them are 100% effective at preventing STDs and pregnancy.  Abstinence, however, is 100% effective at preventing all STDs and pregnancy.  See here what the U.S. FDA is okay with.  http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/byaudience/forwomen/ucm118465.htm

 We all know that Texas Freedom Network (in yellow shirts) was started by Cecile Richards, the current head of Planned Parenthood (hot pink attire), so it was no real surprise that they were essentially locking arms in their efforts today.  And this, to me, is the real story that Planned Parenthood, the media, and the Austin liberals don’t want to talk about.  Planned Parenthood is aggressively trying to take over sex education in Texas.  And Texas Freedom Network is right there trying to help them.

These groups spend a lot of of time attacking abstinence, yet do not want to talk about the fact that Planned Parenthood and other groups have been helping provide drug-based sex education in many large urban areas in Texas, for years, with dismal results.  Corpus Christi/Nueces County is just one example.  Numerous school districts in and around Bexar County (San Antonio area) have used artificial and drug-based sex education for children ages 10-15 since 2003, according to one report. 

Austin I.S.D. has also had and still has a contract with Planned Parenthood to perform sex education in AISD public schools.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Dallas I.S.D. and Houston I.S.D. also have teaching on drug-based sex education that downplays abstinence. 

So if Planned Parenthood wants to complain that teen statistics in Texas are not where they want them to be (even thought they get better almost every year-click here for details Sex Education2011), I believe Planned Parenthood and others are largely responsible for such negative statistics, since Planned Parenthood and others like them are involved providing a significant amount of sex education in Texas public schools, using methods that fail time and time again.

Live Blogging: Bullying, Choose Life Plate & Voter I.D. Hearings Today

March 1, 2011

We intend to tesitfy against HB 224, an anti-bullying bill, that has been used in the past to advance the agenda of the homosexual and transgender community by creating special categories for these individuals.

Click below to see the Dallas Morning News article that supports our point that the bill is all about special rights for the transgender and homosexual community. Rep. Strama seemed very unhappy that I was talking about this issue. One after one, homosexual support groups came up to testify in favor of the bill or others persons brought up the homosexual issue as a reason to pass the bill.  This all just helped support my point.

Correction to this article above, I made the point that in the past, Rep. Strama has tried to add a special class of behaviors by people to our law, those classified as being bullied for “gender identity and expression”.  This is the category that transgender and bisexual persons have created for themselves.  This category does not currently exist anywhere in our state statutes.  Rep. Mark Strama did not include the “gender identity and expression” category in his most current version of the bill, but when asked if he intended to put that language in later, he said he would not be doing that “right now.”  Rep. Mark Strama’s response just further validates our response and concern.

Texas Freedom Network testified in favor of HB 224.  I’m confused, I thought they were a “watchdog” group with the goal of “countering the religious right.”  What “watchdog” work were they doing by testifying in favor of a bill and how does supporting a bullying bill “counter the religious right”?  Are they sending the message that the religious right is the one bullying students in public school?  How amusing. 

I predict HB 224 will not pass and it will be another of loss to add to the pile of losses already on the side of Texas Freedom Network and other Austin liberals.  But no, really they still want to convince you that they are “mainstream.”

We’ll be testifying in favor of SB 257, the Choose Life License plate bill.  We also intend to make it over to the hearing on Voter I.D., regarding SB 14.

1:15 p.m.  Choose Life License Plate bill, SB 257, passes the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, 5-1.

1:10 p.m.  Just testified in favor of SB 257, Choose Life License Plate bill, rgiht after the ACLU, who opposed the bill.  The ACLU, once again, relied on failed legal arguments that federal courts have already rejected.  In fact, it was an ACLU case that lost on this issue.  We made sure the committee knew that the State of Texas has a constitutional bill on this issue.

Houston Chronicle, Liberals “Crying” Over Another Loss at State Board of Education

September 28, 2010

Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express News Editorial Board and Austin liberals, face it, you’re not mainstream and you don’t speak for “mainstream” Texans.  That’s why your narrow views continue to get rejected by a majority of Texans through their elected representatives at the Texas State Board of Education.

The recent passage of the resolution on “Balanced Treatment of Religious Groups” in textbooks, seeking to prevent discrimination against religion, was another stinging loss suffered by the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and yes, the Texas Freedom Network.  This is the latest example of how these groups are completely out of touch with the beliefs and concerns of Texans.

These three groups were all heavily against the passage of a simple, yet detailed resolution that has the goal of teaching accurate information about all religions, and eliminating the Pro-Islam/anti-Christian bias that the author and others show evidence of, in such resolution.

By the way, the resolution talked about textbooks approved for use starting in 1999-2003, and some of those textbooks may still be being used in Texas classrooms today.  Why?  Because SBOE rules do not allow for resolutions on textbooks that are supposed to be the ones being used in classrooms.   So you can’t criticize current books, so the criticism was based on the most recent flawed books that could be discussed, as well as textbooks used in other states.  And if the resolution could have included such criticism, there’s strong evidence of problems in our current textbooks as well.  Not even employees at TEA know for sure, though, if these 1999-2003 textbooks have been completely removed. 

The Houston Chronicle could not wait to pile on and join the losing side and accuse the SBOE of engaging in politics and claiming the SBOE effort was not supported by facts.  Yet the Houston Chronicle itself did not supply facts to support it’s own claim.  The Houston Chronicle relied on politics themselves to support their position, relying on the flawed report of the extreme liberal group, Texas Freedom Network, and then pointing to the election results of the presenter of the resolution, Randy Rives.  Why not just produce a link to the resolution with the details and facts that back up the claim?


Shouldn’t all this be irrelevant?  Facts are facts and if Randy Rives and others show facts and detail to support their conclusion that a pro-Islam/anti-Christian bias exists in Texas textbooks, it shouldn’t matter what election he was involved in.  But since the Houston Chronicle brought up Rives’ election history, why didn’t they bring up the fact that he was the president of his local school board, Ector County I.S.D. in the Odessa area?  I guess that would make it look like he knows a thing or two about education.

Here’s link to the resolution. Antidiscrimination Resolution

And if the Houston Chronicle was so interested in facts, why didn’t they cite to a professor or educator who testified against the resolution at the hearing last week?  Because no such professor or educator presented such testimony.  In fact almost every person and group who testified, testified in favor of the resolution, except for the ACLU, AUSCS, and TFN.

And why didn’t the Houston Chronicle tell you that Texas Freedom Network is a liberal group which has no expertise in education matters?  They spent time telling you that the Board members who supported this resolution were “conservative”, so where’s the equal treatment?  How do we know that Texas Freedom Network is liberal, you may ask? 

Let me just say this, Texas Freedom Network was founded by Cecile Richards, who is the current president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a former deputy chief of staff for Nancy Pelosi. 

Need I say more?


And wait until you read the super spin in the San Antonio Express News op-ed by Veronica Flores-Paniagua.  Be careful when reading, you might get dizzy.  There are even less facts in this bizarre hit piece.  According to Flores-Paniagua, Texas should “tolerate” inaccurate and biased information in textbooks.  I disagree.


Click here to see how Flores-Paniagua was concerned about bias and accuracy when it helped her beat up conservative SBOE members and prop up liberal SBOE members.  This article by her is also flawed as it fails to mention that the LULAC was already listed specifically in the social studies standards, and the vote in question was calling for them to be added an additional time. http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/politics/demographic_projections_make_fallacy_of_sboe_direction_clear_94638214.html

Liberty Institute Discusses Texas Social Studies at Jewish Community Center

June 10, 2010


Last night, I, Jonathan Saenz, was honored to be invited to be a panelist at the Dell Jewish Community Center in North West Austin. 

By the way, Michael Dell is included in the Social Standards.  Admit it, you haven’t read that anywhere else but this blog.

I must say, this is a beautiful facility and made up of several buildings with different uses and function.  I am glad to see religious liberty alive and well in Austin.

Also on the panel were Abby Rappaport of the Texas Tribune blog/online new source, and Kathy Miller, of the liberal group, Texas Freedom Network.

Jonathan Saenz of Liberty Institute at Jewish Community Center Texas Social Studies Discussion

It was a very interesting debate and discussion.  We were excited to hand out our Just State The Facts (www.juststatethefacts.com ) document to the 30-40 people who attended.  I think as more people actually see the real facts of the contents of the Texas social studies standards, they will grow in their confidence of the strength of such standards.

In regards to this event being at the Jewish Community Center, it relevant to note that adopted Texas Social Studies standards cover: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur,  Jonas Salk, Albert Einstein, Golda Meir, and many sections discuss the Holocaust.

Saved from elimination were Jonas Salk, who created the polio vaccine; Albert Einstein, and Rosh Hashanah.  An unelected review committee, made up of a small group of teachers, recommended eliminating  these people and this significant Jewish religious observance.   Thankfully, the elected members of the State Board of Education rejected these recommendations by these certain teachers, and voted to keep these important people and event in the Texas Social Studies standards.

It is worth noting that during the discussion last night, Kathy Miller seemed very excited to make a reference to Neil Armstrong being recommended for removal by one expert reviewer, Peter Marshall, who it seems Miller believes is a conservative. 

That may be true, but Professor Jesus de la Teja, another expert reviewer also recommended eliminating Neil Armstrong from the social studies standards as well.  De la Teja was nominated by Democrats on the State Board of Education.    I am not sure the point that she was trying to make, with mentioning Marshall’s push to remove Armstrong, but not telling the rest of the story, that De la Teja also suggested removing Armstrong.  So two “experts” wanted Armstrong out, and not one.

Our point was, aren’t we glad the State Board of Education didn’t side with some of the “experts” on this issue?

Abby Rappaport, the moderator was fair, I must say.  Kathy Miller didn’t seem to like this fairness as she debated and argued with Abby a few times when Abby’s view of certain issues didn’t quite line up with Kathy’s.

Texas Legislative Session Summary: Taxes Rejected, Family Values Protected

June 4, 2009


From the front lines of the Texas Legislature:  Despite a change in D.C. and a more liberal coup in the Texas House (which helped many dangerous bill have progress that would have previously never moved an inch), there is good news to report, but also some unfinished business.  It must be noted that even though there was a more liberal coup in the Texas House, extreme legislation was still soundly defeated because they are massively out of step with mainstream Texas values. 

Taxes:  The business/franchise tax now exempts from the tax, businesses with a revenue of less than $1 million (HB 4765- House Record Vote http://www.journals.house.state.tx.us/hjrnl/81r/pdf/81RDAY64FINAL.PDF#page=9 ; Senate Record Vote http://www.journals.senate.state.tx.us/sjrnl/81r/pdf/81RSJ05-27-F.PDF#page=388) and property tax appraisers now must include foreclosure sales when computing the market value of a homestead (HB 1038: House Record Vote-http://www.journals.house.state.tx.us/hjrnl/81r/pdf/81RDAY41FINAL.PDF#page=7 ; Senate Record Vote-http://www.journals.senate.state.tx.us/sjrnl/81r/pdf/81RSJ05-26-F.PDF#page=162).  

Also, TEA Party groups, FMF and others, helped end the local-option transportation tax on the last day (HB 300/SB 855-Senate Record Vote-http://www.journals.senate.state.tx.us/sjrnl/81r/pdf/81RSJ04-14-F.PDF#page=11). This was HUGE! 

Science Prevails, Censorship Rejected: We answered the call and defeated efforts to censor and ban discussion and criticism of evolution in the classroom, before the SBOE.   This issue was intertwined with the Legislature as House members signed a letter supporting our position and filed a bill to protect these freedoms, if necessary. Over 10,000 emails and many phone calls made a difference!  This affects 4 million students and was covered internationally! Final record vote: 
For- Allen, Agosto, Bradley, Cargill, Craig, Dunbar, Hardy, Knight, McLeroy, Mercer, Miller, Leo, Lowe.  AGAINST-Nunez, Berlanga. 


 State Board of Education (SBOE) Attacked, Liberal “Victory” Short Lived: FMF fought successfully against liberal bills that stripped textbook and curriculum authority away from the elected SBOE (SB 2275: Bill never received vote-click here for Supporter of Bill http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=81R&Bill=SB2275) and another, HB 710 (http://www.journals.house.state.tx.us/hjrnl/81r/pdf/81RDAY65FINAL.PDF#page=25), would have taken power away from the voters to decide the future and existence of SBOE members and the entity itself.  We were the key to the demise of these and many other SBOE attack bills, with your help. We are outraged that SBOE Chairman, Don McLeroy, was blocked from confirmation by 11 Democrat Senators (the only other Democrat Senator, Sen. Eddie Lucio, chose not to vote on McLeroy, but he was on the Senate Floor). Despite our best efforts to the contrary, the Senate discussion focused on his Christian beliefs and the opinion of the N.Y. Times.  This far-left “victory” will no doubt be short lived, as we believe Gov. Perry will be appointing a new SBOE chairman who is is just as conservative as Dr. McLeroy.  An announcement could come soon. 


Planned Parenthood Failed Takeover of Texas Sex Ed:  Planned Parenthood and other groups put all their efforts toward forcing Texas students to learn more about condoms, contraception, and various sexual lifestyles, and less about abstinence (HB 741 -House members who supported this  http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=81R&Bill=HB741, HB 1567- see who suppported this bill http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=81R&Bill=HB1567).  Almost every day at the Capitol, you could see small groups of women and children carrying Planned Parenthood bags, working on this issue.  But, we provided key testimony and documentation and pulled together a strong and united coalition of groups across the state in opposition to these bills, which we defeated. 


New Hate Crimes  Law for Children? Not On Our Watch: Can you image your ten year-old child being charged with a “hate crime”?  That’s the bill that almost became law this session, HB 824 (see who vote for this bill  http://www.journals.house.state.tx.us/hjrnl/81r/pdf/81RDAY43FINAL.PDF#page=18).  This bill passed the full House, and passed the Senate State Affairs Committee.  Just last week, it was one step away from heading to Gov. Perry’s desk before we were finally able to stop it.  We also stopped a hate crimes bill (HB 2966-see who supported this bill http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=81R&Bill=HB2966) and a “bullying” bill (HB 1323-see who supported this bill http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=81R&Bill=HB1323) that would have given special class protection to “transgender’ persons. 

Pro-Life, Pro-Family Legislation: Some Gains, Some Setbacks:  The Pro-Life Lobby Day was a huge success with hundreds of you in attendance and live ultrasound performed at the Capitol.  Numerous legislators were able to come face to face with the amazing ultrasound technology, some for the first time.  We also worked on the Ultrasound bill (supporters in the House http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=81R&Bill=HB36 and Senate Record Vote http://www.journals.senate.state.tx.us/sjrnl/81r/pdf/81RSJ05-01-F.PDF#page=21). Both the Choose Life license plate bill and Ultrasound had a majority of support by the House and Senate, but the Ultrasound bill was blocked by liberal delays related to Voter I.D. and the Choose Life plate fell victim to political posturing on the last day. Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso), the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, bascially blocked the Choose Life license plate from getting out of committee, otherwise it would have passed the House in a stand alone bill, which would have allowed it to become law, as it had already passed the Senate, Instead, we had to amend the plate onto another bill, which had its own problems and eventually died. (See the House members that supported the Choose Life Plate http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=81R&Bill=HB109 and the Senate Record Vote: http://www.journals.senate.state.tx.us/sjrnl/81r/pdf/81RSJ05-01-F.PDF#page=47)  Adult Stem cell treatment and research funding of $5 million will continue and the Alternatives to Abortion fund was increased from $5 to $8 million. Adult Stem Cell and Divorce Reform bills ran out of time before a House vote.  We also stifled efforts to undermine parental and informed consent and embryonic stem cell/cloning bills. 

Attack on Voters Guides & Others Dangerous Legislation Averted:  HB 2511- see the record vote in the House-http://www.journals.house.state.tx.us/hjrnl/81r/pdf/81RDAY72FINAL.PDF#page=30 which we were able to stop after it passed out of the House, would have had a dramatic negative impact on our voters guide.  I even heard one legislator tell me that he was working on a way to ban our Voters’ Guides from being passed out in churches, something federal law clearly protects!  

Infanticide Bill-We also knocked down efforts to create a new Infanticide law (HB 3318- supporters-http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=81R&Bill=HB3318) mother who murders her infant could have received only 6 months jail time if she claimed postpartum stress, currently this is a Capitol Murder crime). 

Gambling Bills Crushed-numerous bills were filed to expand gambling in Texas, particularly to allow full blown casino gambling in Texas.  We helped defeat them all.   The word around the Capitol was that there were over 200 paid lobbyist working to expand gambling in Texas. 

With our Austin office firmly established, we were at the Capitol every day and we were involved in every part of the legislative process.  We were also able to meet and interact with so many of you when you came to Austin or you called into our office.  We debuted our Texas Legislative Update Blog in January and it received almost 20,000 hits during the session! Thank you for your commitment to stand with us on these important issues.  We could not have had the outcomes on the above legislation without your help.  Please look for more detailed analysis, pictures, and videos of legislative session summaries in the days to come here at our Texas Legislative Update Blog! 

FMF meets with San Antonio pro-life activists at the Capitol

FMF meets with San Antonio pro-life activists at the Capitol

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