Jeffress says he can’t endorse Trump — as he endorses him

Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas

First Baptist Church Pastor Robert Jeffress

Churches and their pastors can’t endorse political candidates without risking losing their tax exempt status. But that didn’t stop the So-Called-Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of Dallas megachurch First Baptist, from making sure that everyone knows Donald Trump is his man. (See video below.)

Jeffress, who wasted no time making a name for himself as an anti-gay crusader when he moved to Dallas from Wichita Falls in 2008, flew to Iowa over the weekend to introduce the GOP’s leading presidential contender at an appearance at Dordt College. (This is at least the second time Jeffress has introduced Trump; he also did so at a rally in September at the American Airlines Center. And as the Dallas Morning News reported here, later in September, Jeffress joined Kenneth Copeland and some other right-wing hatemongers at a gathering at Trump Tower in New York City to lay hands on The Donald “in prayer.”)

In Iowa, Jeffress acknowledged the limitations placed on pastors when it comes to politics, but then continued on with what basically amounted to a “screw that, I am endorsing Trump anyway” moment: “Although as a pastor I cannot officially endorse a candidate, I want you to know I would not be here this morning if I were not absolutely convinced that Donald Trump would make a great president of the United States,” Jeffress said.

He also warned that only Trump could save the U.S. from its current “death spiral,” and that the country would not survive “another third term of Barack Obama in the form of” Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

He wound up the intro by describing Trump as “a great leader, a great visionary and a great American.”

Now, I am not endorsing any candidate for president. But I will say this, if the idea of a candidate that gets Robert Jeffress’ backing scares you — and it should — then you need to make sure you are registered, and you need to MAKE SURE YOU VOTE.

—  Tammye Nash

Rick Perry: Boy Scouts would ‘be better off’ without gay Scoutmasters

Perry.Rick_Jesus Christ, give this guy a closet already.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said yesterday (Sunday, July 19) the Boy Scouts would be “better off” without openly gay or bisexual Scoutmasters.

The Republican, who is now making his second presidential bid, made the remarks on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday (Sunday, July 19).

The Irving-based Boy Scouts of America, now lead by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, recently repealed the organization’s ban on openly gay or bisexual leadership.

“You wrote this in a book in 2008. And it was about scouting. And you said this: ‘Openly active gays, particular advocates, present a problem. Because gay activism is central to their lives. It would unavoidably be a topic of conversation within a scout troop. This would distract from the mission of scouting, character building, not sex education.’ Do you still stand by that statement?,” host Chuck Todd asked.

“I do,” he replied. “I believe that scouting would be better off, if they didn’t have openly gay scoutmasters.”

Fellow Republican candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently made a similar comment before backtracking on CNN.

In 2013, the organization lifted its ban on allowing openly gay or bisexual scouts.

The interview can be found below:

—  James Russell

GOP candidate: ‘Gays… were never banned from marrying… the opposite sex’

Remember Bo French? He’s the Texas House candidate running against Rep. Charlie Geren in Tarrant County. I went to school with his wife and many of her family members. After getting an alarming fundraising email, I wrote an essay urging him to not follow (or take money from) Cathie Adams and the like.

Well, so much for that.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing marriage equality nationwide, French wrote the following:

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After a commenter reminded him that, yes, the U.S. Constitution contains both the 10th Amendment protects states’ rights and the 14th Amendment guaranteeing equality and due process, I guess that was too much. French replied this way:

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French was then asked “you expect to be elected with that logic?”

Well, evidently, he does:

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You can’t say I didn’t try to remind him, because I did. But I guess a West Texas oilman’s money speaks more than an open and honest plea to your wife and her family’s high school classmate to not join the battle of bigotry.

Bring it, 2016.

—  James Russell

Attorney General Ken Paxton should resign

James Russell columnIn the seven months that Ken Paxton has served as Texas’ top law enforcement officer, he has slammed the federal government for its immigration policies, the Environmental Protection Agency for its environmental regulations, the Supreme Court for its rulings upholding the Affordable Care Act and legalizing marriage equality nationwide, defended the state’s stringent anti-abortion law and praised in broad terms further deregulation of the Second Amendment.

To be fair, as Texas Attorney General, Paxton’s office must defend the state court lawsuits, including those filed by his predecessor, now-Gov. Greg Abbott. Just like his predecessor he also has ambitions for higher office. Also like Abbott, his statements read like a fundraising letter. While it is clear he inherited a politicized office from Abbott, Paxton has recently done the office nor taxpayers NO additional favors.

Paxton is already under investigation by a Collin County grand jury for violating state securities law, an admission he made freely and then paid a $1,000 fine for. Under state law, it is illegal for an attorney to accept client commissions without registering first with the state securities board. Paxton not only broke the law but also broke a law he helped pass a state legislator.

Despite this revelation on the campaign trail he defeated two Republican challengers, former Rep. Dan Branch and former Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman. In the general election he defeated Democrat opponent Sam Houston, a Houston-area attorney, in a landslide. Of course, in both instances he was boosted by an energized grassroots and the support of wealthy Tea Party backers. They encouraged, or, more likely were encouraged by, his hard-line rhetoric on any number of issues. (Who wrote the talking points remains the question.)

Regardless of what he may actually believe, when looking for a quick political ascendency, look no further then the Texas GOP grassroots and their wealthy backers for advice. From state representative to one-term state senator to the state’s top law enforcement office,he got what he wanted.

Sadly Paxton’s carelessness, irresponsibility and smugness did not end with an admission or a fine, much less at the door of his private practice. He has also taken those traits to his taxpayer-funded office.

Following Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, his office issued the requisite statement denouncing the decision. He also predictably, following April’s arguments, released a statement defending the state’s marriage ban.

Despite it being out of his responsibility, he then issued an opinion permitting county clerks and other government officials to decline to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if it violates their religious beliefs. While responsibly acknowledging clerks may be held liable, he sealed the fundraising envelope when he offered pro bono legal defense to any clerk mired in litigation for the decision. Religious liberty is an inherent right extended to all individuals, including those who genuinely oppose or support same-sex marriage for those reasons.

Even if you disagree politically or morally, issuing a marriage license does not mean you are sanctioning it. You cannot flout federal law.

Sadly that’s not what he told county clerks and potential donors across the state.

Between his politicization of his office and clear disregard for the law as represented by the pending criminal probe and irresponsible opinion on marriage equality, it has become clear Paxton is unfit for office. But in using Paxton’s logic, I can only conclude two things: breaking the law doesn’t violate his religious convictions, but resigning does. Whether or not a criminal indictment decides his professional fate in spite of any religious convictions, however, is an entirely different matter.

—  James Russell

The radical wisdom of Rep. David Simpson, the evangelical Christian from Longview

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Rep. David Simpson

Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, yesterday (Monday, June 29) called for a special legislative session “in light of the Supreme Court’s lawless and unconstitutional redefinition of marriage,” according to a statement released by his state senate campaign.

“I cannot and I will not sit idly by while unelected judges redefine the sacred institution of marriage and force our county and state officials to violate their most cherished beliefs,” he said. (No matter the decision was 5-4.)

But unlike Texas Eagle Forum’s Cathie Adams and other belligerently anti-LGBT crusaders who called for a special session this month barring recognition of same-sex unions, Simpson took a different approach. He wants government out of the equation.

“In its place, the process of issuing a certificate of marriage will be performed by any willing clergy member consistent with their conscience and in respect for our culture and our heritage,” he said, sticking to his deeply held conservative Christian convictions. But your marriage isn’t his issue: because if a couple doesn’t want to have a religious ceremony, a notary just needs to sign a certificate authorizing their marriage.

“Marriage is a divinely instituted tradition as old as humanity. Government marriage is just another government program and a modern failure. Government has cheapened it, redefined it, and parceled it out for profit,” he said. “As a Christian, I call on every Texan to reject this aberration and contact the governor to take swift action to end it.”

(His statement on the ruling itself, however, can be found here.)

I realize many of my colleagues may disagree with me on this, but it’s not that bad of an idea. I recognize Simpson’s ideology – very, very libertarian – and its flaws – libertarian Republicans oppose government regulation, including government-recognized employment protections. (Notice, however, that doesn’t mean opposition to private policies.)

However, I want to strictly speak in terms of marriage here, and the representative’s wisdom.

Of course, with marriage brings benefits (and federal tax incentives). And counties would lose some serious revenue if they no longer issued licenses, which mean a decline in services.

But to me, Simpson seems to be saying this: should the government capitalize upon our unions, or should they be cherished and sacred, free from interference? (Alternatively, and no disrespect to the representative’s faith, he’s saying “this is noneofya damned business!”)

Bucking the trend

You may have heard of Simpson this past session for making a similar argument on a different topic: weed.

“I don’t believe when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix,” he wrote in op-ed in the Texas Tribune in March. “In the name of protecting the public, certain substances have been declared evil and contraband.”

In early May, seemingly out of nowhere, his bill decriminalizing marijuana statewide passed in committee. It was surprising that legislation by Simpson, who has bucked his party’s leadership even before he entered the Capitol in 2011.

First elected in 2010 in an upset over long time Rep. Tommy Merritt, an ally of Speaker Joe Straus, he has vocally opposed the speaker, who is disliked by numerous Tea Party Republicans. Simpson last cycle was one of the “Turner 19” who voted for Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, for speaker over Straus. During the 83rd legislative session, Simpson even ran against Straus, though he ultimately withdrew his candidacy before the vote.

But over time, like some of his other rebellious but conscientious fellow Tea Party, he has gained his colleagues’ respect for being so gosh darn nice.

To be fair, Simpson has never been a LGBT ally. He won’t politically be on the front lines in the battle for legal recognition. He’s consistently been a darling of the religious right restricting women’s reproductive freedoms (which is none too surprising) but he wasn’t the face of the movement this session.

The government may mean different things to us, and Simpson and I likely disagree on the government’s role in addressing various inequities. In his genuine pursuit of individual freedom, the guy also makes a compelling point – even if you don’t agree with it. And that seems to be his point.

—  James Russell

Gotcha: Cruz and Santorum asked if they would attend a gay wedding

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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

A radio host caught two Republican 2016 presidential hopefuls off guard yesterday (Thursday, April 17) when he asked if either would attend a same-sex wedding, according to Politico.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, a conservative Republican, told host Hugh Hewitt he would not. While Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who announced his presidential campaign this month, dodged the question altogether.

“That would be something that would be a violation of my faith,” Santorum said.

“I haven’t faced that circumstance. I have not had a loved one go to a, have a gay wedding,” Cruz responded.

The question came after Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who announced his presidential campaign on Monday, April 13, told a television host he would attend a same-sex wedding. Rubio opposes same-sex marriage.

“If there’s somebody that I love that’s in my life, I don’t necessarily have to agree with their decisions or the decisions they’ve made to continue to love them and participate in important events,” Rubio told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos on Wednesday, April 15.

Rubio said that as a devout Roman Catholic, said he would also attend a friend’s second wedding after a divorce, even though he said his faith looks down on divorce.

—  James Russell

Indiana Repubs admit anti-LGBT discrimination is legal


Despite Gov. Mike Pence’s insistence that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is all about protecting religious freedom and not about discriminating against folks, two Indiana lawmakers have admitted that even without the RFRA, businesses in their state can legally post “no gays allowed” signs.

Raw Story reports that Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, acknowledged that because the state has no law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, such discrimination is legal in most parts of the state.

The admission came during the two lawmakers’ press conference  during which they said they plan to “clarify” that the RFRA doesn’t allow businesses and individuals to deny service to LGBT people on religious grounds. But one reporter pointed out glaring lack of protections:

“You guys have said repeatedly that we shouldn’t be able to discriminate against anyone, but if you just ignore the existence of this law, can’t we already do that now? Can’t so-and-so in Richmond put a sign up and say ‘No Gays Allowed?’” the reporter asked. “That’s not against the law, correct?”

Bosma admitted that unless the local community has a local ordinance protecting LGBTs such discrimination would, indeed, be allowed, and when pressed further by the reporter, he admitted that most areas of the state have no such ordinances.

The fact of the matter is, the same is true in Texas. Unless you are lucky enough to live in a town or county that has passed a non-discrimination ordinance prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination, if you are LGBT, you have no protections because there is no statewide nondiscrimination law that includes LGBTs. AND, even worse, Republicans have introduced bills in this current legislative session to negate such local ordinances that already exist and prohibit the passage of any such local ordinances in the future.

Maybe folks need to boycott our state, too. Maybe then the Republicans will pull their heads out of their asses.

Watch the Raw Story video above.

And in more Indiana RFRA news, Duke University — whose men’s basketball team is headed to Indianapolis for the Final Four — has joined the NCAA in speaking out against the law, according to Human Rights Campaign.

Duke, the University of Kentucky, Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin are headed to Indianapolis this weekend for the final three March Madness tournament games, including the championship game. Wisconsin and Michigan State both released statements relating to the passage of the bill but Duke is the only Final Four contender to publicly come out against RFRA.

Michael Schoenfeld , Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations said in a statement issued Monday (March 30), that “Duke University continues to stand alongside the LGBT community in seeking a more equal and inclusive world, and we deplore any effort to legislate bias and discrimination. We share the NCAA’s concern about the potential impact of the new law, and will be vigilant to ensure that our student-athletes, supporters, and indeed all citizens and visitors are treated fairly and with respect.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

AG Ken Paxton: ‘Marriage has been clearly defined by Texas voters’

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Texas AG Ken Paxton.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton reassured a crowd outside the Texas State Capitol today (Monday, March 23) about his opposition to his same-sex marriage.

Speaking before a group of prominent social conservatives, including Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state lawmakers, Paxton told the crowd that the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage was a mandate not to be messed with.

“In Texas, marriage has been clearly defined by our elected representatives and by a vote of the people, and more than three out of every four Texas voters defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The people of our state could not have spoken more clearly on this issue,” Paxton said.

Last week Paxton filed suit to stop new rules issued by the Department of Labor to state agencies mandating they extend Family Medical Leave benefits to same-sex couples who were married in another state.

The Department of Labor’s rule, scheduled to take effect on March 27, revises the definition of “spouse” to recognize marriage equality and therefore grant family and medical leave benefits to same-sex spouses.

“This was a direct assault on the rule of law in Texas, and a broadside against the values that Texas voters have stood for, time and time again,” Paxton said of the federal rule. “I will continue to lead the fight against the sort of ‘executive office activism’ that is becoming the trademark of the Obama Administration.”

—  James Russell

California GOP recognizing Log Cabin

The California Republican Party voted Sunday (March 1) overwhelmingly to charter Log Cabin Republicans of California as an official affiliate of the state GOP.Screen shot 2015-03-03 at 10.13.35 AM

The vote was 861-293.

John Musella, whose term as chair of LCR-California began the same day the state GOP voted to recognize the group, said the vote “sends a strong signal that the Republicans’ ‘big tent’ has room for everyone.”

The Texas GOP, however, must have its own tent, and that tent still has a “No Gays Allowed” sign hanging on the door.

The Texas GOP just last year refused to allow Log Cabin Republicans and a second LGBT Republican group, Metroplex Republicans, to have booths at the state convention. It was at that same convention that the Texas Republican Party adopted a platform that called for “reparative therapy” for LGBTs — a discredited practice of trying to convert gays to straights.

And Republicans nation-wide seem to be more in line with Texas Republicans than with California Republicans. The GOP is still fighting desperately against the apparently inevitability of marriage equality, and the Conservative Political Action Committee — CPAC — refused to let the national Log Cabin group sign on as a sponsor of the annual CPAC conference.

Even in California, there are plenty of Republicans who disagree with recognizing Log Cabin, and the state party platform itself says homosexuality is unacceptable: “We believe public policy and education should not be exploited to present or teach homosexuality as an acceptable ‘alternative’ lifestyle. We oppose same-sex partner benefits, child custody, and adoption.”

The state party also has a bylaw that prohibits recognition of organizations focused on “lifestyle preferences.”

—  Tammye Nash

Another damned legislator blocked me on Twitter

Screen shot 2015-03-02 at 9.57.58 AMI awoke this morning to horrible news: another right-wing Dunndee Texas legislator blocked me on Twitter. Naturally, I’ve drafted a statement in reply to this outrageous act:

Rep. Tony Tinderholt, what in the sam hell did I do to you?

I mean, okay, yeah, I wrote last week about the dumb judicial complaint you filed. And I may have tweeted you serve one God, and his name is Tim Dunn. But geez, it’s not like a wrote a whole damned investigative report on you. (Speaking of, if you see Sen. Burton, tell her I say hi!)

Since I can’t get in touch with you, I’ll ask my readers to intervene for me and ask why I’ve been blocked. Would you prefer they tweet you? Or would you prefer they write on your Facebook page? Then again, you may have blocked them by now on social media, so here, I’ll just give them your Capitol office’s number: 512-463-0624.

Until I get an answer, I can’t wait to go to your district office’s opening in Arlington!

<3, JMR

 

—  James Russell