RELIGIOUS RIGHT WATCH

2014 TEXAS GOP PLATFORM

The Texas Republican Party platform has for some time been a biennial exercise in extremism. This year is no different, with no indication that the influence of religious-right activists on the party’s politics has waned.

The Texas Observer has, for example, pointed to the party’s embrace of activists like Sara Legvold, who sits on the Texas GOP platform committee, and the Observer has singled out as one activist with considerable influence on the 2014 platform.

While the party moved to address some troubling language that drew a good deal of negative attention to its 2012 platform, much of the 2014 platform remains unchanged. What’s more, in instances where changes were made, like in the case of the platform plank on gay individuals, it can be said that the party took only a tiny step forward and one giant step back by endorsing so-called “reparative therapy.”

On other issues, like religious freedom, education, women’s rights and healthcare, the influence of the religious right is undeniable.

Click here for the full 2014 platform as adopted by Texas Republicans (PDF).

Changes to the Party’s Stance on Homosexuality, Equal Rights and Its "Defense of Traditional Marriage"
Gone from the 2014 platform is the statement that homosexuality “tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit.” But the rest of the plank’s language remains the same. It still calls homosexuality “chosen behavior” contrary to what has been ordained by “God in the Bible.” It even makes the unsubstantiated statement that such views are shared “by the majority of Texans,” seemingly ignoring that the science that says homosexuality is not a choice and ignoring rapidly changing attitudes toward LGBT people both in Texas and beyond. (P-14)

The plank on homosexuality is immediately followed by the party’s endorsement of “reparative therapy,” once again ignoring the overwhelming evidence that the therapy not only does not work, but is also often harmful. The inclusion of the “reparative therapy” plank (P-14) has been attributed in media reports to Cathie Adams, the president of the Texas Eagle Forum and former chairman of the Texas Republican Party. Adams’ successor as state party chair, Steve Munisteri, has expressed his opposition to “reparative therapy and its inclusion in the party’s platform.

On same sex marriage, the party has dropped language supporting a federal constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. (P-13) However, the party still opposes granting legal recognition of same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships and supports withholding jurisdiction from federal courts that could grant those rights to LGBT individuals, a likely reaction to numerous federal court rulings across the country that have done just that.

The platform also makes “religious freedom” arguments that have been used by religious-right activists to counter efforts to protect LGBT Texans from discrimination. In its plank on homosexuality, the party says it opposes “any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.” (P-14) Further, it includes a plank on “Religious Expression,” which states the party “will protect the rights of commercial establishments to refuse to provide any service or product that would infringe upon their freedom of conscience of religious expression as stated in the 1st Amendment.” (P-24) In the past two years, two Texas cities, Houston and San Antonio, have passed ordinances that bar discrimination of any individuals, including LGBT people, in housing, employment and public accommodations. In both Houston and San Antonio, religious-right activists made the arguments found in the platform: that business and employers should essentially have a license to discriminate under the guise of religious freedom.

At the federal level, the party opposes passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), also on religious freedom grounds. (P-9)

Ironically, and in spite of its opposition to equal rights for LGBT individuals, the platform calls for the equality of all citizens in a plank that also calls for the repeal of the state's Hate Crimes Law and removal of the “sexual orientation category” from the law until which time it can be repealed. (P-24,25)

The party renews its endorsement of covenant marriage and no-fault divorce laws, which would make it harder for abused spouses to escape domestic abuse. (P-13)

Women’s Healthcare, Abortion and Access to Contraception
The party reiterates its prior statement that healthcare decisions should be between a patient and a doctor. In this year’s platform, however, the party inserted the statement that “Abortion is not healthcare.” (P-18)

Unsurprisingly, the platform again includes planks opposing access to abortion and calls for the reversal of Roe v. Wade. (P-14) Relatedly, the party, in a nod to restrictive anti-abortion regulations in the a special legislative session in 2013, thanks the Legislature for passing “strong women’s health and pro-life legislation.” (P-14)

It also encourages the passage of “fetal pain” legislation. (P-15)

Interestingly, the party makes clear there’s no room for dissent in the Texas Republican Party when it comes to abortion. A new plank calls for withholding financial support from any candidate that disagrees with the party platform’s position on abortion. (P-15)

The party platform also renews its opposition to city ordinances that require crisis pregnancy centers, often tax-payer funded facilities that offer faith-based counseling as an alternative to abortion, to post signage telling potential clients that they do not provide abortions, other healthcare services or referrals. (P-16)

The party platform, again under the guise of religious freedom, opposes requirements that healthcare plans include coverage for birth control. (P-24)

Public Education
Gone from the 2014 platform is language that opposes teaching “critical thinking skills and similar programs.” Instead the party has included planks opposing “Knowledge Based Education” and Common Core. (P-20) Both have been attacked by far-right activists who claim knowledge based education and national standards like Common Core are a ploy to indoctrinate children. The platform calls for stripping all state funding from school districts that use the standards.

In a plank on patriotism, the platform asks that students “should have the right to read the Bible on public school property.” (P-19) Students already have that right. Religious-right activists have long perpetuated a myth that the Bible has been banned from public school campuses.

Another plank — Religious Freedom in Public Schools — calls on the state Legislature to “end censorship of discussion of religion in our founding documents and encourage discussing those documents, including the Bible as their basis. “ (P-21) Additionally, the plank asks that district personnel inform students of their right to engage in religious speech and pray while on school campuses. Again, despite claims by the religious right, discussion of religion on public school campuses has not been censored, nor has students’ freedom to pray. The same plank, in complete disregard for church-state separation, states that students and school district employees should have the right to display “Christian items on school property.”

But the party’s attack on church-state separation goes even further. It calls on the Legislature to enact a voucher scheme to funnel tax dollars to private and religious schools. (P-21)

The party also renews its call for abstinence-only sex education in public schools, which has been proven ineffective. (P-22)

Endorsement of Science Denial
In addition to calling for the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency, the party platform also attacks climate science, labeling the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change as a “political agenda.” The plank, essentially, calls for all levels of government to ignore the science. (P-8)

Unsurprisingly, the party platform goes after evolution and in the process creates potential problems for public school teachers and districts by introducing religious beliefs into the science classroom. While not specifically mentioning evolution, the party includes a plank on “Controversial Theories,” which calls for “teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories.” Similar language is used by proponents of “intelligent design/creationism” to diminish the settled science on evolution and to provide an opening for creationism to be taught in the public school classroom. Troublingly, the platform frames criticism of science deniers as “discrimination.” (P-19)

Redefining Religious Freedom
The party platform remains insistent on promoting one faith over all others in government and to eliminating the wall of separation between church and state.

The platform calls the country a “Judeo-Christian” nation (P-23) and repeats the false claim that the separation of church and state is a myth. (P-24) It also calls “Judeo-Christian principles” one of the traditional principles in education. (P-22)

In a plank on religious symbols, the party opposes restrictions on the public display on the Ten Commandments but does not specifically mention displays in government-owned buildings in facilities (P-13), though the party does support displays of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms.

The imposition of Sharia Law in this country remains a cause for concern for Texas Republicans despite the lack of evidence that such a threat is real. The party urges Congress to enact a law that says the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, which is and has always been the case. (P-6)

The imagined threat of foreign laws in U.S. courts is repeated in another plank titled, “American Law for American Courts.” (P-10)

The party also endorses politicking from the pulpit. It calls on amending the federal tax code to allow a religious organization to “address issues without fear of losing its tax-exempt status.” (P-8) Another planks calls for the removal of all regulations governing clergy and religious institutions. (P-8)

Civil and Equal Rights and Attacks on the Judiciary
The 2014 GOP platform remains committed to restricting voting rights for minorities. It also reiterates its opposition to affirmative actions programs. (P-6)

The party renews its support for full repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which protected the rights of minorities to vote, and the repeal of the Help America Vote Act, which was passed in the wake of the 2000 presidential election debacle that ended when the U.S. Supreme Court halted a voter recount in Florida and gave the election to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush over then-Vice President Al Gore. The law is designed to help ensure that every vote counts and to establish minimum election administration standards. (P-11)

The platform also calls on the Texas Attorney General to fully litigate any challenges to the state’s restrictive Voter ID law passed during the 2013 Legislative session. (P-11)

The party also remains committed to attack what it views as activist judges.

Texas Republicans urge Congress to withhold Supreme Court jurisdiction in cases involving abortion, religious freedom, and the Bill of Rights. (P-10)

The Texas GOP supports congressional passage of the so-called “Constitutional Restoration Act,” which would among other provisions bar the U.S. Supreme Court from hearing and ruling in cases regarding governmental entities or officials who acknowledge “God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.” The law would also permit the impeachment and removal of judges who listen to such cases. (P-10)

The platform renews its call for Congress to adopt the so-called Judicial Conduct Act of 2005, a measure pushed by religious-right groups that defines grounds for impeaching federal judges and Supreme Court justices in such a way that would threaten the independence of the judiciary from political pressure. It would, for example, allow the impeachment of judges if politicians make the subjective judgment that they have acted unconstitutionally. (P-10)

Assaults on Open and Sensible Government
In an irony repeated from the 2012 platform, the 2014 platform calls for any bill passed in Congress or the Texas Legislature to be subject to “a recorded and preserved vote; and no bill voted on may be changed after the vote.” (P-6) However, the party supports secret balloting in electing the speaker of the Texas House. (P-11)

The party also repeats these stances from its 2012 platform:

  • Privatizing social security. (P-17)
  • Allowing college students to carry guns on campus and nullification of federal gun restrictions. (P-23)
  • Abolishing the Department of Education (P-22) and the Department of Energy (P-31)
  • Opposition and full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare (P-18)
  • Repeal of the minimum wage law (P-32)
  • Establishment and maintenance of a volunteer Constitutional State Militia with assistance from County Sheriffs. (P-24)
  • Withdrawal from the United Nations and removal of U.N. headquarters from U.S. soil. (P-34)
  • U.S. withdrawal from the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank. (P-37)

Multiple Nods to Conspiracy Theorists
In addition to renewing its demand that all candidates for public office submit a certified copy of their birth certificate, a likely nod to the “birther” movement (P-10,11), the party also calls for a full investigation of the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Lybia, calling the matter a “cover up.” (P-8)

The party also opposes U.N. Agenda 21, which has been cited by far-right activists as a ploy to hand over U.S. sovereignty to foreign entities. (P-34)

And in one of the most absurd platform planks on the United Nations, the party makes reference to a discredited rumor on ownership of the Alamo. In October 2013, an email circulated by the president of the San Antonio Tea Party implied that management of the Alamo would be handed over to the United Nations. The claim was quickly debunked by the Texas Land Office and by Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, then a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. In reality, all the United Nations did was name the Alamo a World Heritage Site that should be protected and preserved. Still, the baseless claim of a U.N. take over of the Alamo made its way into the Texas GOP platform. (P-35)