Texas Legislative Session Ends without Adoption of Bills Threatening Religious Freedom
The Texas legislature introduced a variety of bills that threatened to violate the separation of church and state that is vital to true religious liberty. But, thanks to action and hard work of supporters of religious liberty, these bills were defeated! Here is an example of some of the problematic bills that did not pass:
Anti-Sharia Bills: Texas House Bills 562, 670, and 3698 did not mention Sharia law specifically, but were really motivated by anti-Muslim animus. Their purpose was to combat the unfounded fear that Sharia law could be applied in Texas courts. This precaution was unnecessary as Texas courts are already empowered to refuse to enforce foreign law judgments if they violate Texas and U.S. laws. The bills’ only effect, therefore, would have been to spread anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Voucher Bills: Senate Bills 4, 642, and 1178, each would have created a different kind of voucher scheme. Whether in the form of a “scholarship,” “grant,” or tax credit, these voucher programs would have funneled taxpayer money into primarily religious schools, violating our country’s commitment to the separation of church and state. Studies show voucher programs do not improve academic achievement or provide greater educational opportunities for disadvantaged students. According to multiple studies of the District of Columbia, Milwaukee, and Cleveland school voucher programs, students offered vouchers do not perform better in reading and math than students in public schools. They also often lack accountability, oversight, and civil rights protections.
So-Called “Religious Freedom” Bills: The Texas legislature introduced over 20 of these so-called “religious freedom” bills that could have trumped the civil rights of all Texans, and the LGBT community in particular. House Bill 4105, which was later added to House Bill 2977, attacked marriage equality specifically. Even if the Supreme Court decides this month that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, this bill would have prohibited state or local public funds from being used for an activity that includes the licensing, support, or recognition of a same-sex marriage. This bill would have also codified a particular religious view of marriage to the exclusion of other religious views held by many Texans.
House Bill 3864 would have allowed state-funded child welfare agencies to discriminate against potential parents for religious reasons. For example, adoption agencies could have refused to place a child in a good home with a same-sex couple, previously divorced individuals, or adherents to a religion with which they disagree. Not only would this bill have permitted government-funded discrimination, but it would have placed the child welfare agency’s interest above that of a child’s.
There will be no legislative session in Texas in 2016, but please watch for our federal action alerts and help to make a difference defeating bad bills in Congress!