Pastors from all over Texas are descending upon the Texas Capitol today to support a Texas House Bill that protects the rights of certain religious organizations and individuals when refusing to perform or to recognize a gay marriage. The Texas Pastor Council has issued a Call to Action for “Pastors At The Capitol” for Wednesday, April 22nd. They will be attending the House State Affairs Committee hearing on H.B. 3567 to “begin challenging the false narrative of the Texas Association of Business that Texas can’t be both business friendly and protect the religious freedom of the people.” The Texas Pastor Council is a part of the United States Pastor Council (USPC).
The House bill is authored by Texas State Representatives Scott Sanford (R-McKinney), Bryon Cook (R-Corsicana), Debbie Riddle (R-Houston), J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville), and Patricia Harless (R-Houston).
Rep. Stanford, the first author of the bill told Breitbart Texas:
We hope that this legislation provides peace of mind. Texas will not force ministers or religious organizations to participate in marriages which are against their sincerely held religious belief. These protections for our clergy and churches are necessary, which is why Article 1, Section 6, of the Texas Constitution states ‘it shall be the duty of the Legislature to pass such laws as may be necessary to protect equally every religious denomination…’ Our goal is to protect clergy and other religious leaders from their principles being compromised by an overreaching government.
H.B. 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 beliefs.
Entitled “Freedom of Religion with Respect to Recognizing or Performing Certain Marriages,” H.B. 3567 states:
Sec. 2.601. RIGHTS OF CERTAIN RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS. A religious organization, an organization supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, an individual employed by a religious organization while acting in the scope of that employment, or a clergy or minister may not be required to solemnize any marriage, provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage, or treat any marriage as valid for any purpose if the action would cause the organization or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief.
Sec. 2.602. DISCRIMINATION AGAINST RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION PROHIBITED. A refusal to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges under Section 2.601 is not the basis for a civil or criminal cause of action or any other action by this state or a political subdivision of this state to penalize or withhold benefits or privileges, including tax exemptions or governmental contracts, grants, or licenses, from any protected organization or individual.
The Council believes that the principle at risk is that “Texans should be free to live and work according to their religious beliefs without fear of prosecution. The government should not punish people for their faith or force people to act against their faith. When there is a conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberty, Texas law should protect the rights of conscientious objectors. At a minimum, we should protect clergy, religious organizations, and their employees from suits that compel them to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs regarding marriage.”
In a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas, the Council wrote that the solution to the problem is HB 3567. The Council believes it “protects the religious liberty and rights of clergy, religious organizations, and employees of religious organizations when they exercise their rights as whether to perform a marriage based on their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Pastors and conservatives have been in a fight in Houston, Texas, over Houston’s non-discrimination ordinance and Breitbart Texas has reported about this controversial city ordinance. Opponents of “HERO” (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) gathered signatures to place the issue on the ballot, but Democrat Judge Robert Schaffer in Harris County, Texas found on April 17th that opponents failed to gather enough valid signatures to force a vote on repealing the ordinance. At one point during the litigation, the City of Houston issued subpoenas for pastors’ sermon notes and communications to congregants.
The Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker is the city’s first openly gay mayor. She told the Houston Chronicle “I would hope that the plaintiffs would not appeal, they lost during a jury trial and today they also lost with the judge’s ruling. Now all Houstonians have access to the same protections.” Andy Taylor, the attorney for the plaintiffs said “We intend to appeal and are confident the higher courts will agree that good handwriting is not a valid reason to deny citizens of their constitutional rights to vote.” The lower court ruling invalidated petition signatures on the basis that they were illegible leaving 16,684 valid signatures when 17,249 signatures were needed.
Breitbart Texas spoke to Dave Welch, Executive Director of the Texas Pastor Council who said “We were fully aware that we were dealing with a liberal judge who had been endorsed by the LGBT political Caucus. We had hoped he still might decide on the side of law and justice; however, we were not surprised that he rolled. We are preparing the appeal. We will not yield to tyrants.”
The Pastors are meeting at the North steps of the Capitol at 1:00 p.m. and will go from there to a special meeting room where they will be greeted by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The pastors will visit key House and Senate member’s offices and will leave information sheets. At 5 p.m., or when the House of Representatives floor sessions adjourn, the pastors will attend the State Affairs Committee Public Hearing on H.B. 3567 in the John H. Reagan Building. Pastors who desire to do so will testify before the Committee but all pastors are urged to sign up “FOR” the bill even if not testifying.
The Texas Pastor Council statement urges that “Government may not withhold benefits or privileges from clergy, religious organizations, and employees of religious organizations because they exercise their religious beliefs relating to marriage ceremonies. HB 3567 will advance religious liberty, conscience protection, freedom of speech, free markets, and limited government.”
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her @LanaShadwick2