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Messed Up in Texas
Tim Francis-Wright

If it did not exist, then the Texas Republican Party Platform would have to be invented. For someone, somewhere, would surely come up with a satire of what the Republican Party has become, and it would look awfully similar. It would not, however, be in the best of taste.

Party platforms are written by the party faithful, and they generally represent the views of the more forceful members of the party. A political party in a conservative state like Texas will have quite a different platform from one in a state like Massachusetts. But platforms also represent the thinking of the leaders of the party, lest the platform offend important segments of the electorate. Because the president hails from Texas, one might expect that the party platform would pay at least some heed to being inclusive. If the Texas Republicans set out to make moderates feel at home, they failed. If they set out not to offend, they did a horrible job.

The platform, 22 pages long, contains a huge number of planks. Some are amusing—space-based solar power is apparently important enough to be mentioned twice—and some are conservative boilerplate. But others stick out because they show the reactionary views of the platform committee. In some cases, the committee was so eager to bow to conservative doctrine that it contradicted itself.

The platform makes clear that some religions are better than others, the First Amendment notwithstanding. It proclaims that "The United States of America is a Christian nation, which was founded on fundamental Judeo-Christian principles based on the Holy Bible." Each individual, of course, has the right "to worship in the religion of his or her choice," but some religions are more equal than others.

The framers of the Constitution were so bound to their Judeo-Christian principles that the entire seven articles of the document per se contain no reference to God, Christ, the Creator, or the Bible. (The signature block does mention the "year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven," but this reference is hardly a religious endorsement; it qualifies that distinction by adding "and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth.") The Constitution was hardly breaking new ground, because the Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1777, share the lack of references to any and all religious terms. The Constitution has one reference to religion, but it not the kind that the Texas Republicans would like: Article VI states that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." For a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles, the founding documents are awfully secular.

The framers of the Constitution had as assortment of religious affiliations. Most were Protestants, but a two were Roman Catholic and three were Deists, in other words, agnostics. One of the main objections that many American patriots had against the King of England was that he was head of an official church, The sour experience with official religion was the reason not only for the secular nature of the Constitution but also for the First Amendment that expressly prohibited an official American church.

The platform calls for the "return of Bibles and other religious books to the shelves of all public schools and libraries." Later, it calls for any sex education in the schools "must teach directive abstinence until heterosexual marriage." The platform does not address how schools should reconcile these two directives when students start reading from the Song of Solomon, especially the parts about the breasts and the myrrh and the pomegranates.

The platform states in its preamble that "human life is sacred because each person is created in the image of God"; hence "life begins at the moment of conception." It therefore stands steadfast against euthanasia and any sort of abortion, fetal tissue harvesting, and stem cell research using human embryos. But the platform loses its grasp on the sanctity of human life when it comes to capital punishment. It claims that "capital punishment, when properly applied, is a legitimate form of punishment....[that] should be swift and unencumbered." After all, as we have learned from the Bible, no one sentenced to death has ever been unworthy of that punishment.

When the platform talks about homosexuality, it reveals the true venom at the heart of the Republican Party. The platform speaks in its preamble about the need to respect "each person's ability, dignity, freedom and responsibility." Later, however, the platform claims to deplore "all forms of preferences and discrimination" but only those "based upon religion, race, color, national origin, gender, age, or physically disabling condition." Guess what was left out!

The platform expressly opposes "any granting of special legal entitlements, recognition, or privileges including, but not limited to, marriage between persons of the same sex, custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values." [emphasis added]

The platform expressly calls for heterosexuals to have numerous special rights. Heterosexual parents would be protected against unwarranted governmental interference into what their children learn; into how they discipline their children; and into what health care their children must receive. Married heterosexuals would enjoy a tax system geared to them, with reduced tax payments and no estate taxes. On the other hand, homosexual parents would have no parental rights whatsoever. The government, so mistrusted for everything save national defense, would have absolute authority over any children in a household with homosexual adults. And the open-ended nature of the plank of the platform hints at more discrimination against homosexuals, if only the platform committee could think of exactly what.

The most chilling part of the entire platform, however, is the sentence that hopes to absolve Texans of civil or criminal liability when homosexuals are concerned. Has the platform committee no shame at all? Even ignoring any moral considerations, this plank makes no sense: there are few absolute defenses to civil or criminal charges in American jurisprudence, because defenses must generally fit the facts and circumstances at hand. The moral implications of this part of the platform are abhorrent at best and sociopathic at worst.

Republicans often speak of a "big tent" that can accommodate divergent views. At least in Texas, entering that tent requires a frightfully narrow mind.

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