2012 Texas GOP Platform: Turning Back The Clock In America

Below is a portion of a fantastic briefing paper recently released by the Texas Freedom Networks called "2012 Texas GOP Platform: Turning Back The Clock In America." Read the entire report here.

The religious right's dominance over the Texas Republican Party remains clearly evident. In many ways the 2012 party platform turns back the clock on issues such as religious freedom, public education, voting and gayrights, and even solutions to the nation's economic troubles. Numbers in parentheses indicate specific pages in the platform. Click here for the full 2012 platform as adopted by Texas Republicans. Click here to go back to the main Texas GOP platform page to find analyses of the 2010 and 2008 platforms.

Threatening Religious Freedom

The party platform once again proclaims that the United States is a “Judeo-Christian Nation” and insists that the separation of church and state is a “myth.” (P-14)

The party distorts constitutional restrictions on displaying religious symbols in government buildings when it expresses opposition to “any governmental action to restrict, prohibit, or remove public display of the Decalogue or other religious symbols.” (P-7) Americans have long had the right to display – openly and publicly – the Ten Commandments and other religious symbols on their own property.

The platform again calls for revising the Internal Revenue Service code so that clergy can “address issues without fear of losing its tax-exempt status.” (P-4) But the code doesn’t prohibit clergy from addressing issues of the day. It prohibits religious institutions and other tax-exempt nonprofits from engaging in partisan political campaigns.

Republicans admirably call for Congress to sanction foreign governments that engage in religious persecution. (P-14) But the party platform also specifically targets the mythical threat of Islamic (Sharia) law in America (P-2).

Texas Republicans also wants Congress to weaken a key safeguard for religious liberty by withdrawing Supreme Court jurisdiction from causes involving that constitutional freedom. (P-5) Doing so would open the door to government favoring the religious views of some while disfavoring those of others.

The platform insists that public schools emphasize “the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded.” (P-13)

The party would forbid any government oversight of faith-based entities that receive taxpayer funds. (P-17)

Undermining Public Education

Even though state lawmakers cut billions of dollars from public schools in 2011 (which resulted in the layoff of thousands of teachers across Texas), the state GOP platform explicitly calls for “reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of education institutions.” (P-17)

The platform also calls for a voucher scheme that would drain tax dollars from public schools to pay for tuition at private and religious schools. (P-12)

Texas Republicans “oppose any sex education other than abstinence until marriage.” (P-12) Interestingly, this differs from the 2010 platform, which said “until heterosexual marriage.” In any case, the party remains opposed to teaching high school students medically accurate information about contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases even though Texas has one of the highest teen birthrates in the nation.

The party repeats past support for expanding the authority of the highly politicized State Board of Education, including giving it the power to appoint the state’s education commissioner. The platform also calls for giving the state board sole authority over textbook adoptions, although Senate Bill 6 (passed by the Legislature in 2011) gives local school districts the authority to bypass SBOE textbook decisions. (P-13)

The platform again calls for the abolishment of the U.S. Department of Education. (P-13)

The new GOP platform does not repeat previous explicit support for teaching “intelligent design”/creationism alongside evolution in public school science classrooms. It does, however, include typical anti-evolution code words employed by creationists in insisting that schools teach “all sides” of scientific theories and that “theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.” (P-12) Creationists have used those arguments to promote anti-evolution claims that simply have no basis or support in established science and scientific evidence. Far-right groups have also used such language to attack the overwhelming scientific evidence on global climate change.

Texas Republicans again call on “Congress to repeal government-sponsored programs that deal with early childhood development.” (P-12)

Texas Republicans also repeat their previous opposition to teaching “critical thinking skills and similar programs” in public schools, suggesting that they “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” (P-12)

The party would prohibit “any paid public school employee or contractor to lobby the legislature or the SBOE, unless on an unpaid basis and in an unofficial capacity.” (P-12) That prohibition would limit the ability of classroom teachers and education specialists employed by public school districts to meet with SBOE members or speak to the full state board about issues such as the revision of curriculum standards and the adoption of textbooks. In fact, a number of SBOE members have in the past publicly expressed their hostility to teachers who have testified before the board on such issues.

Continue reading the report on the TFN website here.