Texas Lawmaker Reverses Course on Misguided ‘Religious Freedom’ Amendment

by Dan Quinn

We have very good news to share regarding at least one of the proposed constitutional amendments in Texas this year that would allow government officials and individuals to use religion to discriminate. Late Monday afternoon, state Rep. Jason Villalba sent out a press release saying that he intends to “reconsider entirely” his proposed HJR 55. That amendment, as well as state Sen. Donna Campbell’s SJR 10, would replace the state’s existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act with new language that essentially throws open the door to allowing religion to be used as a weapon to discriminate and harm others.

Now Rep. Villalba’s statement makes clear he will not press forward with his amendment. His announcement comes after leaders in the Texas business community made it clear that they oppose both HJR 55 and SJR 10.

We just sent out the following press release:

TFN PRESIDENT APPLAUDS LAWMAKER’S DECISION TO ‘RECONSIDER ENTIRELY’ PROPOSED HJR 55 

Proposed Constitutional Amendment Would Open the Door to Discrimination in Texas

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller today applauded the decision by state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, to “reconsider entirely” a proposed constitutional amendment that would essentially replace the state’s existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act, allow some to use religion to harm others, and undermine the fundamental principle that laws should apply to everyone.

“Like Rep. Villalba, we think religious freedom is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans,” Miller said. “But Texas already protects that freedom without allowing businesses, public officials and other individuals the right to use religion to ignore laws and discriminate against others. We hope other lawmakers will pull down similar legislation that would give Texas a reputation for being intolerant and unwelcoming and create a hostile environment here for business and commerce.”

Rep. Villalba’s office issued a statement late Monday announcing the decision to reconsider his proposed constitutional amendment, HJR 55, following discussions with leaders of the business community in Texas. In his press release, Rep. Villalba said he agreed that his amendment would harm Texas businesses.

“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,” Rep. Villalba said.

A substantially similar amendment proposed in the Senate, SJR 10 by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, suffers from the same flaws that have troubled business leaders, civil rights organizations and supporters of religious freedom.

The state’s existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in 1999 by a large bipartisan majority in the Texas Legislature and signed by then-Gov. George W. Bush, has worked well for 15 years and should not be replaced, Miller said.

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