TFN Insider is pleased to present this guest post from Rev. Dr. Kyle M. Walker, Transitional Pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church in Austin. In February, Kyle participated in Faith Advocacy Day, sponsored by TFN and Equality Texas. He writes about how that experience prompted him to work within his own denomination to build opposition to misleading “religious freedom” proposals in Texas that misuse religion in ways that could lead to harm and discrimination.

Several weeks ago I participated in Faith Advocacy Day for Equality at the Texas State Capitol. Although we went to meet with a lot of legislative aids rather than directly with senators and house members, the conversation hasn’t left me. Many of you have been through this drill. We would enter into some offices of legislators that had known negative records on equality issues and share with them why we, as religious leaders, have great concern for certain bills. What struck me though was how these aids in the most hostile territory weren’t hostile at all. Now maybe they were just good at being a non-anxious presence, but I truly got the sense when they told us they didn’t know the negative effects of all this… Read More

Texas politicians are again targeting Muslim Americans with thinly veiled discriminatory legislation. On Tuesday the Texas House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee will hear testimony on three bills that threaten religious freedom for everyone, but especially religious minorities. We need your help to stop these bills.

HB 562 by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, HB 670 by state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, and HB 3698 by state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, are worded differently but are all based on the unfounded claim that American Muslims are trying to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, in Texas. In fact, Rep. Leach has already said the purpose of his bill is to stop the mythical threat of Sharia here.

TAKE ACTION Contact members of the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee to express your opposition to these bills. Their contact information can be found below. Tell committee members:… Read More

The Texas Observer has an interesting interview with state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, who has filed a number of bills (such as this one) this year that would protect the ability to discriminate against LGBT people. Bell says the purpose of his bills are to defend states’ rights and religious freedom.

Check out the video clip included with the article. When asked about any limits on the ability of businesses to discriminate, Rep. Bell replies:

“I think they should be free to turn away anyone they don’t want to do business with.”

The Texas Observer reporter then asks whether that means businesses should be able to discriminate against African Americans and other racial or ethnic minorities for religious reasons. Rep. Bell replies:

“I don’t think there are any religious objections to people for the basis of their skin color or otherwise. I think that has more to do with their choices and decisions in life.”

Really, Rep. Bell? We’ve seen religion misused to discriminate on the basis of skin color quite often. Where have you been?

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When Texas lawmakers two years ago passed extreme legislation limiting access to abortion care, they promised to come back this legislative session to address the issue of unintended pregnancy. Now they can take a first step toward keeping that promise.

The State Affairs Committee of the Texas House is set on Wednesday to hear testimony on a proposed bill that would help lower the high number of unintended teen pregnancies in Texas. House Bill 468 by state Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, would allow teen parents over the age of 15 to obtain birth control without having to get the consent of their parents or guardians.

Lawmakers should trust teen parents and other Texans to make their own reproductive health care decisions, including the timing and spacing of their children. You can support this bill in two ways. First, contact members of the State Affairs Committee to express your support for HB 468. Second, testify at the public hearing on Wednesday, March 18, at 10:30 a.m. or after the House has adjourned for the day. The hearing is set for Room JHR 140 in the John H. Reagan Building at 105 West 15th Street in Austin.

Tell members of the House State… Read More

On Monday state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, said he would no longer support his HJR 55, a controversial state constitutional amendment that supporters claim protects religious freedom in Texas but in reality opens the door to using religion to discriminate and harm others. On Wednesday, state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, refiled the measure as HJR 125.

HJR 55, HJR 125 and SJR 10 by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, would allow businesses, government officials and employees, and other individuals to ignore laws they claim offend their religious beliefs, including laws that bar discrimination against LGBT Texans and others.

The conservative Texas Association of Business has warned that the amendments would make Texas appear unwelcoming, hurt the state’s ability to recruit new businesses and thereby create “an environment that is hostile to business and economic development.” Rep. Villalba says he has been persuaded that this is a problem and that he will not ask for a committee hearing or vote on HJR 55:

“I cannot and I will not support legislation, however well-intentioned, that would result in harming the job creators who are so very valuable to the Texas economy.”

But Rep. Krause doesn’t care about that, apparently. Protecting the ability… Read More