The “Pastor Protection” bill, designed to protect pastors and their churches when refusing to perform a same-sex marriage, passed the Texas House with bipartisan support. The bill will go immediately to Texas Governor Abbott, who has vowed to sign it.
The vote for passage of the bill was 141-2, with five House members abstaining. The two who voted against the measure were Democrats.
Senate Bill 2065, like the essentially identical House Bill 3567, provides that clergy, religious organizations, and employees of religious organizations may not be required to perform a marriage or provide goods, services, or accommodations related to a marriage ceremony, if the action would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.
In response to the passing of the bill, Governor Abbot took to Twitter and tweeted his support of the bill:
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 21, 2015
Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values Action, provided the following statement to Breitbart Texas:
Texas made an important decision today to specifically protect the religious freedom of our pastors and churches that follow their beliefs on marriage. Government at any level should not be allowed to punish our clergy and churches for following their faith on marriage. We are thankful for the pastors, churches and church leaders from all across the state that have lead in this effort and have demonstrated the very real threats to religious freedom from those seeking to redefine marriage.
The President of Texas Values Action thanked House Representative Scott Sanford, Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), and leaders in the House and Senate for their hard work in helping get the bill passed. Breitbart Texas reported on both of their efforts this legislative session.
Rep. Sanford, who authored an identical bill in the House (H.B. 3567), told Breitbart Texas, “The Pastor Protection Bill, SB 2065, is a shield for clergy and churches. I am thankful to the many pastors from across the state who showed up to testify in favor of this bill in committee and the grassroots organizations who tirelessly made phone calls in favor of this legislation. Religious liberties must be defended and the passage of the Pastor Protection Bill is a step forward for this cause!”
Rep. Sanford has served Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church in Allen, Texas, since 1997 and is currently the Executive Pastor. He is also a CPA.
“This bill is a small step of protection in a much larger war against religious freedom raging across America and well underway in Texas,” said Dave Welch, President of Texas Pastor Council Action, an ethnically diverse, inter-denominational coalition involving pastors in all major cities in Texas, which mobilized hundreds of pastors in support of the bill.
“We are very pleased that S.B. 2065 survived efforts to weaken its scope that does nothing more than puts in Texas law protections for pastors to do what we have been doing since the birth of this nation – exercise our faith in obedience to God and with the support of our Constitution and laws,” Welch continued.
Welch said his coalition plans to revisit other bills that died during the session, “particularly if the U.S. Supreme Court ‘goes rogue’ and overturns Article 1, Section 32 of the Texas Constitution defining marriage as a union only of one man and one woman.”
“We will not yield one inch of the rights given us by God, the freedoms purchased by the blood of patriots and part of our national DNA to those attempting to recreate our moral laws, culture and laws according to those with a deviant sexual lifestyle or gender confused,” Welch declared.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2