After an encouraging victory for religious freedom in the key state of Texas, experts call for further action in the fight for liberty there and nationally
In a heartening triumph for religious liberty, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Pastor Protection Act into law on Thursday, June 11 – a significant step in safeguarding the Constitutional rights of religious leaders, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s impending decision regarding marriage.
While the passage of this law should be celebrated, it is by no means a final victory. The fact that additional laws must be enacted in order to protect religious liberty – the very first freedom guaranteed to all Americans in the First Amendment – is alarming. Political and legal experts warn that much more must be done in order to truly protect religious freedom in an increasingly hostile society.
MORE ABOUT THE PASTOR PROTECTION ACT
The Pastor Protection Act came as a much-needed response to an attack on five Houston pastors last October by the city government – namely a subpoena for all sermons referencing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity) and homosexuality in general, among other things. Such infringement was an overt breach in the pastors’ freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
Thanks to tireless help from the attorneys for First liberty institute, the new Pastor Protection Act (SB 2065) ensures that:
Sponsored by Texas State Representatives Scott Sanford (R-McKinney), Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), Debbie Riddle (R-Houston), J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville), and Patricia Harless (R-Houston), the law will go into effect on September 1 of this year.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the bill’s passing:
“With today’s signing of SB 2065, Texas took a small but important step to further protect the religious freedom of clergy in the face of increasing hostility toward people of faith in all walks of life. No Pastor, Priest, Rabbi or other religious leader should be forced to perform or recognize a marriage that contradicts his or her sincere religious belief.”
He continued, however, with an urgent call for more action:
“But to be clear, it’s not enough. We now have much more work to do to ensure that all Texans can practice their faith and, among other things, recognize traditional marriage without being punished, harassed or discriminated against for their beliefs.”
THREAT EXTENDS FARTHER THAN THE PULPIT
Pastors are not the only ones at risk – so are you. More cases of hostility toward religious freedom are documented every week. While it is wonderful that religious leaders in Texas now have a strong basis for legal protection against rising attacks from the radical left – it is time for you, your business, your friends in the military, and your children in school to have protection, as well.
In Attorney Gen. Paxton’s words:
“What about the wedding photographer, the event planner, the caterer, the bed and breakfast owner, cake baker or any other Texas small business owner who is threatened or sued for carrying out their work according to their faith? What about the religiously-affiliated adoption agency that believes it should only place a child in a home with traditional marriage? What about the private school that teaches traditional marriage but is told it is an ‘issue’? Will that school lose its 501c3 tax-exempt status, as was suggested by the U.S. Solicitor General while arguing against traditional marriage in the Supreme Court”?
HERE IS TIME TO ACT – AND THAT TIME IS NOW
Attorneys for the First liberty institute have advised more than 13 states and the federal government to make sure that laws like the Pastor Protection Act have maximum sturdiness against challenges by those who oppose religious freedom.. These are laws that will make it easier to win in the ongoing battle for religious freedom.
Other states currently considering similar bills to Texas’ Pastor Protection Act include Oklahoma, where the bill recently passed their State House on a vote of 88-7. Additionally, many states already have the protections that Texas is considering in place—including Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C.
First liberty institute GeneralCounsel Jeff Mateer commented, “The Texas Pastor Protection Act was a great first step in preserving religious liberty rights of our pastors and churches. Further protections are needed however to ensure that all American have the right to freely speak and act according to their beliefs. Whether it be in business dealings, the provision of adoption and foster care services, employment, the military, or on our school and colleges campuses, the right of all citizens to hold a faith-based view of marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman should be protected.”
First liberty institute is prepared and available to help people of faith in all sectors of society in the fight to defend religious freedom. We will continue to speak out in support of pastors, clergy members, and people like you.
“It is our responsibility to stand up and protect people of faith from hate and intolerance, and we should take whatever steps necessary to make clear we will defend people of faith and their sincerely-held belief in traditional marriage,” Paxton said on Thursday.
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About First liberty institute
First liberty institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.