Religious-righters are twisting and redefining “religious liberty” so much that the term itself is in danger of becoming almost meaningless. Fortunately, a growing number of mainstream religious leaders from around the state are calling out the nonsense. The latest battleground: public subsidies (such as vouchers) for religious schools.

The rabidly anti-gay, religious-right group Houston Area Pastor Council, which also goes by the name Texas Pastor Council and U.S. Pastor Council, is leading the effort to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). The group, led by one of Houston’s most vicious anti-gay activists, Dave Welch, claims that barring discrimination against people because of who they are or whom they love violates the religious freedom of people to, well, discriminate.

Then last week Welch’s group filed a brief with the Texas Supreme Court arguing that the failure of the state to provide taxpayer funding to faith-based schools is also a violation of religious freedom. The brief is for a major court long-running case on whether the way Texas funds its public schools violates the state Constitution. The Pastor Council argues, in part:

The total and complete exclusion of religious providers from the public education system severely implicates religious liberty, whereas their inclusion clearly does not violate religious liberty or the Establishment Clause per… Read More

That’s a tweet today from the Texas Senate Republican Caucus. Apparently, nothing says “protecting your religious freedom” better than saying it while promoting the symbol of the majority religious faith. Courageous, yes?… Read More

Today the Texas Freedom Network and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas are announcing a joint initiative — Texans Equal Under the Law — to oppose laws that allow people and organizations to use religion to discriminate. This announcement comes as the Texas House Committee on State Affairs considers yet another proposed bill that turns the principle of religious freedom on its head by allowing faith to be used a weapon to harm people. We just sent out the following press release about that bill and Texans Equal Under the Law:

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… Read More

Click below for contact information of committee members.

Wednesday, April 15 House Juvenile Justice & Family Issues

On Wednesday, a state House committee will take up HB 3864, by state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney. Like the recent Indiana law that caused such backlash, this bill would authorize state-sanctioned discrimination purportedly to protect religious freedom.

The primary consideration for a child welfare agency or organization should always be the best interests of the child — not advancing a sectarian belief or political agenda. This bill gets that backward.

Call the members of the Texas House Committee on Juvenile Justice & Family Issues and tell them to oppose HB 3864 because:… 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

Texas Freedom Network

Amid all the fighting, most lawmakers have apparently overlooked a provision that would force counties to automatically reject some mail-in ballot applications. texasmonthly.com/new…