The Texas legislature’s regular session ended just weeks ago, but lawmakers are already back in Austin for a special session. Governor Greg Abbott (R) was forced to call the special session after the state legislature failed to adopt must-pass legislation during the regular session: in a dramatic stand-off, the Senate had refused to pass key bills as retaliation for the House refusing to pass legislation that would discriminate against transgender people.
The Washington Post recently ran a long story about Ark Encounter, the Williamstown, Ky., creationist attraction founded by Ken Ham, who leads the fundamentalist Religious Right organization Answers in Genesis. Although some readers found the story to be oddly sympathetic to Ham, some interesting tidbits are found in it.
The Texas legislature only meets every other year. So, with the last day of session rapidly approaching, the past few days – yes, even including the weekend – have been wild. The result: A lot of harmful policies are closer to becoming law. Here’s a roundup of the legislature’s troubling actions over past couple of days:
Tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer (NDP), an annual event that is, to speak frankly, annoying to many of us who support the separation of church and state.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) today introduced the Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. It builds on our nation’s tradition of expanding civil-rights protections to ensure that more of our neighbors are protected from discrimination based on who they are.
Within 15 minutes it was done: The Oklahoma Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass three extreme bills yesterday – with no debate. The first bill would allow prayer in public schools (SB 450), the second would make the state’s law requiring parental consent for a minor to receive abortion care even more severe (SB 753) and the third would gut the state’s civil rights laws by allowing a range of individuals and businesses to discriminate as long as it’s based on a sincerely held religious belief (SB 197). It was as easy as 1, 2, 3.
Last night, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on Betsy DeVos, the nominee for Secretary of Education. Senators showed up with a lot of questions for DeVos, who has no experience in education policy but instead has a long record of supporting private school vouchers. Despite protest from the Democrats on the committee, the committee chairman allowed each senator only five minutes to ask all of their questions.
As school districts around the country become increasingly diverse, some have begun to debate closing for non-Christian holidays, The Washington Post reports.
For example, minority communities in Montgomery and Howard counties, both in Maryland, have requested that school calendars recognize more major religious and cultural holidays.
Just days after a horrific terrorist attack on Nov. 13 left more than 120 people in Paris dead, Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich stood before a crowd of reporters and unveiled his plan for defeating radical Islam: creation of a federal department to promote “Judeo- Christian” values overseas.
Two daycare workers claim they were fired for refusing to acknowledge a transgender child’s gender identity. Madeline Kirksey and Akesha Wyatt of Katy, Texas, say they lost their jobs at Children’s Lighthouse Learning Center after using female pronouns to refer to a six-year-old trans boy.