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 to discriminate — especially against LGBT Texans — is more important to him. In fact, Rep. Krause is one of the most aggressive religious-righters in the Texas House. In the 2013 session of the Texas Legislature, for example, he sponsored a bill that would have forced public colleges and universities to give their formal approval to student organizations that discriminate about LGBT students. (His bill failed to pass the Legislature.)
In any case, we again have at least two lawmakers pushing constitutional amendments that would sweep away the state’s existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a well-crafted law that has worked well for more than 15 years. If enacted, those amendments would allow people to use religion as a weapon to divide our communities and harm others while undermining the fundamental principle that laws should apply to everyone.