A measure introduced by State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) which is designed to prevent businesses from being punished for not providing their goods and services to gay couples is raising eyebrows with civil rights groups, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
Senate Joint Resolution 10, which is a constitutional amendment and would require a vote of the people, says ‘government may not burden an individuals or a religious organization’s freedom of religion or right to act of refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.’
Evangelical Christians have long chafed at ‘human rights commissions’ which take it upon themselves to punish, for example, a bakery which refused to provide a wedding cake for a gay couple.
Daniel Williams of Equality Texas, a group that fights for civil rights for gays and lesbians, says Campbell’s proposal is not new.
“Three very conservative legislatures have looked at this and have seen what a bad idea it is,” he said.
He says the far reaching impact of Campbell’s proposal is enormous.
“Basically, any law could be disregarded if a person was claiming a religious belief,” he said.
Some groups call Campbell’s proposal a ‘right to discriminate’ act.
“This is an obvious connection to anti discrimination ordinances around the state,” Williams said.
San Antonio last year approved a gay and lesbian Non Discrimination Ordinance which prohibits a ‘public accommodation’ from refusing to provide goods or services to gays and lesbians. The city of Houston is currently wrestling with a similar proposal.
Opponents say Campbell’s bill say the impact of the measure would be amazing. Not only could companies refuse to provide services to Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, or Jews, and cite a ‘sincerely held religious belief,’ but people could use the law to say their ‘sincerely held religious belief’ allows them to speed on the highway, harm other people, and even to commit violent crimes.
So called ‘freedom of religion’ laws have been floated in more than half of the states in the past few years. Most have been defeated by state lawmakers, and others have been thrown out in the courts.