Texas State House Representative Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) is going forward with a Religious Freedoms measure apparently abandoned by Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas). Krause’s bill proposes a constitutional amendment which would bar counties, cities, and homeowners associations from interfering “in any way a person’s free exercise of religion.” The amendment is intended to address ordinances passed in Houston, San Antonio, and Plano that target business owners who exercise their religious beliefs about sexual orientation.
Matt Krause introduced HJR 125 which is identical to the version abandoned by Rep. Villalba. The Houston Chronicle reported last week that Villalba had posted a statement on his Facebook page on March 9th saying this about his House Joint Resolution (HJR) 55:
While well-intentioned and narrowly crafted, it is the opinion of respected business leaders throughout the state that HJR 55 may result in harming 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.
Villalba’s Facebook post no longer appears on his Facebook page.
According to the Chronicle, Villalba said he decided to “reconsider entirely” his House Joint Resolution 55 after Texas Association of Business CEO Bill Hammond, and others raised their opposition to the measure.
Breitbart Texas reported in December that Rep. Villalba said he was defending his religious liberty resolution from claims that it discriminated against gays.
The Texas Association of Business (TAB) announced its opposition to the Religious Freedom Restoration act (RFRA) on March 5th. The TAB refers to itself as “Texas’ conservative Chamber of Commerce.”
The statement by the TAB said that:
the ‘license to discriminate’ RFRA bill—House Joint Resolution 55 and Senate Joint Resolution 10—would do serious damage to Texas’ economy. If passed into law, this misguided bill could allow private businesses and individuals to use religion as a means to discriminate against gay and transgender people, as well as exempting businesses from criminal, tax, health and safety, environmental quality and zoning laws.
The TAB’s statement included this from President Chris Wallace:
We feel that this will certainly make our state look very much unwelcoming when it comes to business recruitment. We also have several businesses within the state, our large corporations for instance, that have diversity policies already in place, and what we’re hearing from them is they want their state to look the same way.
In December after he filed his resolution, Villalba told Breitbart Texas that HJR 55 was “very tailored” and “not intended to prohibit local municipalities from passing non-discrimination ordinances.” He also said the amendment could be applied to prohibit a school district from barring a valedictorian from mentioning Jesus in their graduation speech, and protect holiday displays on government property. “These issues are important to me,” said Villalba. “I’m not trying to pander to the right, or to offend the LGBT community or to support discrimination.” He said he wanted to make sure that his children’s school could have a Christmas pageant, or football players could have a voluntary prayer after a game “without fear of reprisal.”
Texas State Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) filed Senate Joint Resolution 10 in November. It would prohibit a government from punishing “an individual’s or religious organization’s freedom of religion or right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.” Senators Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and Van Taylor (R-Plano) are co-authors of the resolution. The senate resolution provides that the constitutional amendment would be submitted to voters in an election held November 3, 2015.
Senator Campbell reportedly responded to critics in February by saying:
The right to freely exercise one’s religion does not stop at the doors of our churches or synagogues, but extends to all aspects of our lives, including our businesses. Texans should be free to run their businesses in accordance with their faith, not forced by government entities to surrender their religious identity or act against their conscience. … Over-the-top rhetoric and fear-mongering from groups with a history of intolerance toward traditional religious values is just that and fails the truth test.
Villalba, an attorney, said in February that HJR 55 (now HJR 125) and SJR 10 were “completely different measures that focus on different issues and each have different intents.” He said then that SJR 10 “could result in unintended consequences, which is why we drafted HJR 55 in a much narrower, much more tailored way.”
This article was updated with additional information.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.