It’s 93 degrees in Texas today. And Rev. Jeff Hood is walking 200 miles across the state. What would compel somebody to do that? He wants to end the death penalty … and he is not alone.
Rev. Jeff Hood is a Southern Baptist pastor, deeply troubled by his denomination’s stance on capital punishment. And he is troubled because he lives in the most lethal state in the U.S. Texas has had 515 executions since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 – the next state in line is Oklahoma with 111. That means Texas is responsible for 37 percent of the executions in the U.S. Jeff has been a longtime organizer and board member for the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, a movement that is gaining some serious momentum these days.
A growing number of Texans — and Americans in general — are questioning the death penalty. A recent ABC poll shows we are over the tipping point, with more than half of Americans being against the death penalty and in favor of life in prison, putting death penalty support at a new low. For some it is the racial bias – in Texas it is not uncommon for an African American to be found guilty by an all-white jury. In fact, in considering “future dangerousness,” a criteria necessary for execution in Texas, state “experts” have argued that race is a contributing factor, essentially that someone is more likely to be violent because they are black – prompting articles like the headline story in the New York Times about Duane Buck: “Condemned to Die Because He is Black.”
GUN BARREL CITY, Texas (RNS) This place got its name because the main road was straight as a gun barrel. Today, it’s at the center of a fight over gay marriage.
That’s because weekenders Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, who bought an A-frame house overlooking scenic Cedar Creek Lake four years ago, have become minor celebrities as the men challenging Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage.
Their battle, joined by two women whose Massachusetts marriage the Lone Star State refuses to recognize, is as unlikely as it is uphill. They’ve already won the first round in federal court in San Antonio, where District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled the state’s marriage laws against gay couples “demean their dignity for no legitimate reason.”
Entering its fourth week on the road, the Fast for Families bus continues its journey across the country getting closer to its final destination: Washington, D.C. on April 9.
Continuing the call for fair and humane immigration reform, fasters visited Arlington, Texas last week on the southern trail, connecting with members of Congress who shared their goals for immigration reform.
“The trickiest issue is what do you do with people that are here [undocumented]?” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who is drafting his own immigration bill and hopes to introduce it in late spring or early summer. “We need to weed out the bad apples and send them back home or put them in jail. But the others whose only [unauthorized] act is coming to this country [undocumented], we sort them out and put them on a legalization path, and minors on a citizenship path.”
Twenty-seven evangelical Christian leaders across Texas and the United States are calling on Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson to allow a new, fair sentencing hearing for Duane Buck. Mr. Buck is an African-American man who was condemned to death after his sentencing jury was told that he was likely to be a future danger because of his race. These evangelical Christian leaders oppose the setting of any execution date for Mr. Buck.
“We write to respectfully request that you support a new, fair sentencing hearing for death row prisoner Duane Buck,” the letter states. “Although opinions on the death penalty vary within each of our churches, we are strongly united in our view that no death sentence should be a product of racial discrimination, as it was in Mr. Buck’s case.”
In the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, there is a Psalm that proclaims: “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). There is no part of this world that God is not aware of, cannot lay claim to, and does not rule. Christians affirm that as people of faith we’re called to be stewards over creation, answering one day for how we’ve treated the earth.
And part of that stewardship means understanding how this world works and what it needs in order to thrive. Unfortunately the din of our political ideologies has too often drowned out the biblical calling to care for creation.
In Texas, the State Board of Education will recommend new textbooks for all its students—and because it has such a large population, what they decide could determine what students in other states learn about science. There are several ideologues submitting textbook critiques to the board and their reviews will factor into each book’s overall score and likelihood of being approved by the school board. These ideologues could block the use of textbooks that teach the reality of climate change for the whole country’s public school students.
What people here are wondering today is what in the world went wrong with Aaron Alexis?
The man who shot and killed 12 people had his problems. But friends who worked and lived beside Alexis say they don’t recognize the man who went on a shooting rampage Monday at a military complex in Washington, D.C., and eventually was shot dead in a gunfight.
Alexis’ life ended in Washington, where he lived in a Residence Inn in the southwest part of the city and worked as civilian contractor for the military. But much of his story is centered in Fort Worth, where he seemed to be an easygoing guy who practiced Buddhism, meditated for hours and hung out with friends who spoke Thai, as he did.
You know, I always hedge when people ask me where I’m from, because the second I tell them I was born and raised in Texas, all kinds of stereotypes pop up in the conversation.
Yes, I can read.
No, I’m not a Republican.
Yes, I’m a Christian. No, not that kind.
No, I don’t ride horses, own a cow, oil derek or know JR Ewing personally.
And no, I do not think Texas should become its own republic.
But then, stories like this one come along that only serve to reinforce the negative biases against Texans that I try so very hard to debunk. Come on guys, work with me here!
Life is difficult. It can knock you down. Sometimes, an entire nation gets knocked down.
First it was Boston. Some mad man (or men) lays waste to one of America’s most hallowed sporting events — the Boston Marathon. Sidewalks that should have been covered with confetti were covered in blood.
Then it was the quintessential small Texas town of West. Populated by hearty Czech immigrants, folks in West worked hard in their shops, bakeries, and fertilizer plant until the plant exploded. A magnitude-2.1 on the Richter scale, witnesses compared it to a nuclear bomb. Dozens are feared dead.
In the nation’s capital, we had the bitter realization that something is broken that will not be easily repaired. A commonsense proposal that emerged from the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, background checks to prevent convicted felons and the seriously mentally ill from purchasing guns online or at gun shows, fell prey to Washington gridlock. None of the Newtown proposals — the ban on assault weapons, limits on the number of bullets a gun can hold or expanded background checks — could garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Senate filibuster.
Finally, there were the ricin-laced letters sent to a Republican senator and the president.
The notion of religious liberty has lately conveyed an impoverished attitude toward the common good among Christians. Namely, “we’ll pay for what we like, and won't pay for what we don’t.”
This stubbornness cropped up last week in College Station, Texas, when the student senate at Texas A&M voted for students to have the privilege of diverting tuition payments from services they object to on moral grounds. Named the “Religious Funding Exemption Bill,” the broadened proposal’s original language (“GLBT Funding Opt Out Bill”) specifically targeted funds going to the campus’ GLBT Resource Center.
Missing from the media coverage was a real look at the bill’s usage of religious exemption — or more specifically, its misuse. In its bill, the student government at A&M confused religious liberty with religious control, and managed to do a good degree of community damage in the process.
When disgruntled congregations have left hierarchical denominations such as the Episcopal Church, they’ve often lost property battles as civil courts ruled buildings and land are not theirs to keep.
But outcomes could be different this year, court watchers say, as high-profile cases involving dozens of Episcopal congregations in South Carolina and Texas wind their way through state courts. That prospect has observers watching for insights that could shape legal strategies in other states and denominations.
Both cases involve conservative dioceses that voted to leave the Episcopal Church over homosexuality, among other issues. In South Carolina, congregations representing about 22,000 people are suing the Episcopal Church for control of real estate worth some $500 million and rights to the diocese’s identity. In Texas, the national Episcopal Church is suing about 60 breakaway congregations in the Fort Worth area for properties estimated to be worth more than $100 million.
AUSTIN, Texas — After a walk around the Texas Statehouse, it became clear they tell a different history here.
Inside the Capitol is a large painting of a onetime Tennessee congressman named David Crockett, who failed in a re-election bid and stormed out west to join the revolution in what was then called Tejas. He arrived in 1836 and died four weeks later at the Alamo in San Antonio.
A plaque beneath the oversized painting suggests Crockett was a laborer who became larger than life when he got to Texas. A more balanced account suggests Crockett had been building his legend for many years, with exotic garb, a self-published autobiography, and fiery speeches against President Andrew Jackson. He yearned to star in Washington, and when that failed, he went west, landing at the Alamo just in time to die there.
An ambitious state needs its mythology.
Cheerleaders at an East Texas high school are fighting their school district’s orders to stop using Bible quotes on their signs at football games.
In August, cheerleaders at Kountze High School, a school with fewer than 500 students 30 miles north of Beaumont, Texas, began painting Bible verses on large paper signs football players burst through at the beginning of games.
But this week, Kountze Independent School District Superintendent Kevin Weldon called for an end to the banners after consulting with a legal adviser at the Texas Association of School Boards.
“It is not a personal opinion of mine,” Weldon told KHOU, a Houston television station. “My personal convictions are that I am a Christian as well. But I’m also a state employee and Kountze ISD representative. And I was advised that such a practice would be in direct violation of United States Supreme Court decisions.”
That prompted the cheerleaders and their supporters to launch a Facebook page, “Support Kountze Kids Faith,” which attracted 34,000 members in its first 24 hours — more than 10 times the population of Kountze.
Parents of at least three cheerleaders have hired an attorney and are considering suing the school district.
After Walmart closed up shop in McAllen, they left 124,500 square feet of retail space behind for use by the city.
Rather than bring in another big box corporation to pick up where Walmart left off, the southern Texas city decided to turn the building into its new public library. And not just any public library neither: Upon its completion, the McAllen Public Library became the largest single-story library in the United States.
The project was massively successful: Registration by first-time patrons went up by 23% in the library's first month of operation, and its "functional, flexible and affordable" interior — constructed by Minneapolis-based Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. — was recently named winner of the International Interior Design Association's 2012 Library Interior Design Competition.
Read the full report HERE.
WASHINGTON --- An appeal over Christmas sweets turned bitter on Monday (June 11) when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the so-called “Christian candy cane” case.
The case out of Texas has become a rallying point for conservative Christians concerned about free religious expression in public schools and students' ability to distribute religious literature.
The case, Morgan v. Swanson, kicked off nine years ago in the Plano Independent School District as principals prevented self-described evangelical students from distributing religious literature on school grounds.
Politico is reporting that President Obama is planning to reject the Keystone XL pipeline this afternoon.
Here’s a quick roundup of some reasons why we think that’s awesome:
Yes, the Obama administration is going to have differences with some of the Catholic bishops. But that doesn’t mean it’s a war.
The Governor should know that if he was elected President he would have some big problems with the bishops as well.
Remember when Perry boasted about how many people had been executed in Texas? And how the crowd responded by cheering?
This Sunday (11/6), is precisely one year from the 2012 General Election where the next U.S. President will be elected, and to mark the date, thousands of people from across the country plan to gather at the White House.
But we're not gathering to celebrate, have a sit-in, or even march in protest. Instead, we plan to surround the White House -- literally -- in a Circle of Hope that could be as large as a mile or more in circumference.
From our Circle of Hope we will call upon President Obama to reject the dirty-oil, Keystone XL pipeline Big Oil wants to build from the Canadian tar sands in the Alberta province 6,000 miles south -- straight through the American Heartland -- to the oil refineries along the Gulf Coast of Texas.
We've compiled a list of links where you can learn more about the genesis of the #OccupyWallStreet movement, including links to news reports, organizations involved in formenting the movement and local groups in every state where you can get involved close to home (if you don't live in Lower Manhattan.)