The Texas Freedom Network supports the constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state, which protects the right of all Americans to practice the faith of their choice, or none at all, free of government interference.

Unfortunately, efforts to knock down that wall are a constant in Texas. Politicians and activists have attempted to impose their views on others on issues like abortion and access to contraception. And in a distortion of the principle of religious freedom, far-right groups have supported legislative efforts to allow individuals to use religion as an excuse to ignore laws they might not like and even as a weapon to discriminate against others.

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The Latest on Church & State

Another anti-Sharia measure received a surprise hearing in the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday, even though there was no advance notice for the hearing. HJR 43 is a constitutional amendment by Dan Flynn, R-Van, stating that a “court of this state may not enforce, consider, or apply any religious or cultural law.”

Strangely, the bill’s author never uttered the words “Sharia” or “Islamic law” when explaining his bill, offering only bland, empty platitudes about respect for Texas law and courts. Rep. Flynn also announced that he was working on a committee substitute that changed his proposal in ways he did not specify. But, adding to the odd presentation, he did not bring any new language to show the committee.

The proposal as filed shares all the flaws of the anti-Sharia bill (SB 1639) that was heard in the Senate a few weeks ago — and then some, since the language of this constitutional amendment is MUCH more broad. Unfortunately, since the committee provided no advance warning for the hearing, they did not hear the full range of opposition that mobilized against SB 1639  in the Senate Business &… Read More

On Wednesday the Texas House Higher Education Committee will consider legislation that could force Texas colleges and universities to allow student organizations to discriminate. House Bill 360 by state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, would withhold state funding from a public or private institution of higher education that requires religious and other student organizations to allow students to participate regardless of those students’ “beliefs or status, including race, gender, and sexual orientation.”

Rep. Krause says his bill is intended to protect the religious freedom of student organizations to exclude those who don’t share their beliefs. Yet his bill could force college campuses to allow — and even fund — student chapters for anti-gay hate groups and racist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan if they claim that their discriminatory practices are based on their religious beliefs.

Click here for more about HB 360. Then call members of the Higher Education Committee (click here for contact information) and urge them to oppose HB 360. Tell them:… Read More

At a time when the Southern Baptist Convention has fallen completely under the control of religious fundamentalists who seek to use government to promote their own ideological views, it might be hard to remember the long tradition of Baptist support for separation of church and state. Many Baptists still support it. Take, for example, the Rev. Charles Johnson, pastor of Bread Fellowship in Fort Worth. On Tuesday he spoke before the Texas Senate Education Committee against Senate Bill 23, a measure that would provide state tax credits to businesses that fund voucher scholarships for students at private and religious schools. He was testifying on behalf of the Christian Life Commission and the Coalition for Public Schools. TFN is a member of that coalition, which opposes private school voucher schemes.

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the author of SB 23 and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has argued repeatedly that his bill doesn’t create a government-funded voucher program that subsidizes tuition at nonpublic schools. But Rev. Johnson clearly and correctly explained that the bill’s tax breaks for businesses would take money that would otherwise go to public schools and send it to private… Read More

In an impromptu meeting called at the close of the Senate’s regular business on Wednesday, the Business and Commerce Committee quietly — and narrowly — voted to pass Senate Bill 1639 by a vote of 5-4. Based on our quick review of the audio file of the meeting, the vote count was as follows:

Yes: Carona (R), Taylor (R), Eltife (R),  Hancock (R), Lucio (D)

 No: Estes (R), Van de Putte (D), Watson (D), Whitmire (D)

It’s not exactly surprising to see a measure targeting the mythical threat of Sharia law advance in Texas — it’s certainly not the first time. But given the overwhelming chorus of voices that unequivocally demonstrated that there is no problem with Sharia law in Texas courts, it is  a little disconcerting.

And yet, some on the committee were clearly listening to that testimony. Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, explained why he joined with three Democrats on the committee to vote against the measure:

Senator Carona, I want to first start by saying that I believe this bill was filed with the best of intentions. I think… Read More

Last Wednesday, the Texas House Committee on State Affairs took testimony on HJR 110, by state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, which would add a modified version of the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to the state constitution.

TFN supported passage of Texas RFRA in 1999, and we think it has been working just fine since then. But HJR 110 is not the RFRA of old. The amendment’s vague, overly broad language could create all sorts of unintended consequences and would undoubtedly lead to expensive litigation.

And nobody has explained those potential consequences better than former state Rep. Scott Hochberg did at last week’s State Affairs hearing:

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