Faith Leaders to Texas Lawmakers: Religious Freedom isn’t a License to Discriminate

Interfaith Clergy Support Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBT Texans

February 20, 2019

AUSTIN – Clergy from diverse faith traditions gathered at the Texas Capitol today to call on state lawmakers to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Texans from discrimination and reject proposed legislation that would turn religion into a license to discriminate.

They spoke at a Capitol press conference as part of Texas Believes, a coalition of faith leaders who support full equality for LGBT Texans.

“The bible I read does not tell me to discriminate against my neighbor, but to love my neighbor and to treat everyone as I would like to be treated,” said Rev. Dr. Michael Diaz, associate pastor of Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ in Dallas. “Like the majority of Texans, I believe it’s time our state laws reflect the same sense of respect to gay and transgender Texans.”

Rev. Andries Coetzee, pastor of University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, urged lawmakers to reject “fear, scarcity and prejudice” in favor of “generosity, inclusion and nondiscrimination.”

“Growing up in apartheid South Africa and having lived through my country of birth’s transition to full democracy, I have stood at this line in the sand before,” Rev. Coetzee said. “Now is not a time for us to be oppressed by fearmongering. But it is a time for all of us to stand together and embrace the Golden Rule that says to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Now is a time for us to protect all people from discrimination, including LGBT people.”

Rabbi Kelly Levy of Congregation Beth Israel in Austin, pointed to the Torah and its teaching that all people are equal in the eyes of God.

“As a Jew, a rabbi, and a human being, I stand here today urging our elected officials to remember to love their neighbor, to protect the vulnerable among us, to see that we are all created in God’s image, that we are all one,” Levy said. “Vote to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Vote to protect the rights of your fellow human being.”

Religious freedom is one of the founding values of our nation but is not a license to discriminate, said Rev. Erika Wilson, founder and spiritual director of The Awakening Spiritual Community in San Antonio and faith coordinator for the Texas Freedom Network.

“We’re here today to say that protecting everyone from discrimination, treating everyone right and equally, isn’t being hostile to religion,” Rev. Wilson said. “Treating others as we would want to be treated is a core teaching of our faiths, and I dare say treating everyone as they deserve to be treated is the moral thing to do.”

Polling from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that 64 percent of Texans support laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination in jobs, public services and housing. The same polling shows that 57 percent oppose allowing businesses to refuse to provide products or services to LGBT people for religious reasons.

Legislators have filed a number of bills this session to update the state’s nondiscrimination laws to include protections for LGBT Texans. In contrast, at least three other bills would allow businesses, mental health counselors, other licensed professionals and even government officials to refuse service to LGBT Texans for religious reasons.

Those latter bills would expand on HB3859, which the Legislature passed in 2017 and allows adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBT kids and families for religious reasons. In fact, such laws open the door to discrimination against virtually anyone. This month, for example, a Catholic mother in South Carolina filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a Protestant foster care agency refused to work with her because of her religion.

The Rev. Naomi Brown of Metropolitan Community Church of San Antonio also spoke at today’s press conference.

Clergy can sign on to a letter calling on legislators to protect LGBT Texans from discrimination at


Texas Believes is a coalition of faith leaders who support full equality for all Texans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Texans.