Texas state senator Donna Campbell has introduced a measure that would allow business owners and services to refuse to serve LGBT customers if doing so would violate their religious beliefs.
This is the second time Campbell has tried to pass such a resolution, Lone Star Q reports. The 2013 resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 4, was backed by Texas Values, an antigay group. It was nearly identical to her new legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 10, filed Monday, the first day lawmakers could file bills in advance for the legislative session that begins in January.
“Government may not burden 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 unless the government proves that the burden is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and it the least restrictive means of furthering that interest,” reads the new resolution. “For purposes of this subsection, the term ‘burden’ includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, and denying access to facilities or programs.”
Texas already has a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and while that act's language is similar to that of the new resolution, critics say SJR 10 could have broader effects, according to Lone Star Q. The RFRA states that the government “may not substantially burden” an individual or organization based on religious beliefs. Campbell’s new resolution states that the government “may not burden” an individual or organization at all.
Campbell’s last attempt at passing such legislation drew strong criticism from other members of the Senate, who claimed the bill could be used by religious extremists like the Westboro Baptist Church, according to Texas Monthly.
“While I know everyone here represents what I would call traditional religious groups, there are religious groups that have very, very different fundamental beliefs,” Leticia Van de Putte, the chair of the Senate’s committee on veterans’ affairs, said at the time. “Could this resolution lead to our inability to protect their religious beliefs from infringing on our military funerals?”
Other members shared similar concerns that the previous resolution could interfere with the law stating that funeral protesters must stay 500 feet from the funeral, according to Texas Monthly. And some senators voiced concern that the amendment would turn abortion into a religious right.
“We do not oppose the concept of a religious freedom amendment,” Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, said last year. “Rather, we are concerned that a future court could misconstrue the expansive language ... our concern is that abortion will become a religious right.”
Because SJR 10, like its predecessor, takes the form of an amendment to the state constitution, if the measure is approved by the state Senate and House, Texans will have to affirm it by a vote in November 2015.