On the surface, the bill would prohibit cities from taking “adverse actions” against companies based on their owners’ religious beliefs. It was proposed after San Antonio City Council members rejected a slate of new restaurants at a local airport until Chick-fil-A, with its anti-LGBTQ history, was removed from the list.
But American Atheists says this bill is far more dangerous than we might think. That’s because, as written, the bill doesn’t just permit discrimination against LGBTQ people without consequence. In theory, anyone could get immunity from punishment as long as they cite a religious justification for what they did. Those criminals could then sue the State of Texas for damages connected to the criminal charge.
Here’s the main text of the bill:
Notwithstanding any other law, a governmental entity may not take any adverse action against any person based wholly or partly on the person’s membership in, affiliation with, or contribution, donation, or other support provided to a religious organization.
You see what they’re talking about: Just taking that literally, if a teacher gives you a low grade for not doing your homework, and you say, “Doing homework is against my religion,” that would be a legitimate excuse under the law.
You may think that’s absurd and unlikely, but that’s the point. This bill is written far too broadly. AA says this could affect “Texas schools, local government, the courts, and so many other areas of life.”
The other problematic part of the bill is what victims can do if they are punished because of their faith.
RELIEF AVAILABLE. (a) A person may assert an actual or threatened violation of Section 2400.002 as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding and obtain:
(1) injunctive relief;
(2) declaratory relief; and
(3) court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
They’re saying Chick-fil-A and the kid who didn’t do his homework could all sue the government for punishing them for their sincerely held religious beliefs.
American Atheists says this goes well beyond mere discrimination, which was bad enough:
No one should get special privileges or immunity to the law based on their religious beliefs.
Unfortunately, this legislation has already passed the Senate. It was passed out of committee without any hearing or consideration of unintended consequences of carving broad religious exemptions into the law.
The group is urging Texans to send a message to their House representatives to oppose the bill. (Their site makes it very easy to do this.)
It’s just another example of how Republican-dominated legislatures are doing everything they can to implement their goals of a Christian theocracy before people realize what’s happening.
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