NEW TEXAS ‘RELIGIOUS REFUSALS’ BILL OPENS DOOR TO DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTH CARE, SOCIAL SERVICES AND MORE
Leading Texas Religious Liberties Groups Unite on Initiative Opposing HB 3567 and Other Bills That Allow Using Religion to Discriminate
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 22, 2015
A bill under consideration in the Texas House State Affairs Committee today would give religiously affiliated entities like hospitals and child welfare organizations authority to discriminate against almost any Texas family, two of the state’s leading religious liberties organizations warn.
“This is yet another example of an ill-conceived bill that pretends to protect religious freedom but in truth opens the doors to real harm,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network. “And it invites to Texas the same uproar and condemnation we’ve seen with similar bills in Indiana and other states.”
Supporters portray House Bill 3567 by state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, as simply protecting clergy from performing marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs. But the Constitution and Texas law already provide that protection, said Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas.
“More troubling is that this bill goes much further,” Robertson said. “It would allow any religiously affiliated entity to pick and choose which lawful marriages it will recognize for any purpose. That would open the door to discrimination even in secular contexts, not just against same-sex couples, but also against interfaith couples, couples that include a previously divorced spouse, and even interracial couples.”
The Rev. Kyle Walker, pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church in Austin, echoed concerns that the bill flips the principle of religious freedom on its head.
“No pastor today is forced to perform a wedding that violates his or her religious beliefs, and our conscience is already protected under the law,” Walker said. “This bill is unnecessary and allows discrimination in the name of religion, in the name of God.”
HB 3567 would permit discrimination in a variety of secular circumstances. For example:
- A religiously affiliated adoption agency could refuse to place a child with an interfaith couple, regardless of the best interests of the child.
- A religious hospital could deny a legally married man the ability to make medical decisions for his spouse on the grounds that he was previously divorced.
- A faith-based social service organization that accepts tax dollars—like a homeless shelter or food bank—could decline to serve interracial families.
- A religious university could refuse to file federal tax forms for an employee in a legally recognized same-sex marriage.
TFN and the ACLU of Texas together have launched Texans Equal Under Law, an initiative that opposes HB 3567 and other legislation that would allow individuals and organizations to use religion to discriminate: www.texansequalunderlaw.com.
The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who support religious freedom, individual liberties and public schools.
ACLU of Texas is a guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, the Legislature and Texas communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution.