Believe it or not, conservative Christians came away from the most recent legislative session frustrated with their accomplishments in the state of… Texas. They didn’t get everything they wanted in Texas, a state where Republicans have majorities in both chambers and sit in every statewide elected office.
At a time when Alabama and Georgia and Missouri are landing punch after punch against abortion rights, Texas is somehow absent from the news on that front. It seems like the only thing white evangelicals have successfully passed is the recent “Save Chick-fil-A” bill — but even that was watered down before it was signed into law.
The reason for that frustrating is primarily because those majorities are shrinking, which means Republicans are playing it more cautious than usual. In 2018, Democrats gained 12 seats in the State House and 2 seats in the State Senate. They have a long way to go, but the less extreme Republicans know they have a lot to lose by letting the far-right legislators control the bills.
David R. Brockman, writing for the Texas Observer, explains how the GOP even failed at their bread and butter: bills meant to tear down the wall of separation between church and state:
Attempts to chip away at the separation of church and state, a perennial Christian right priority, made no headway this session. Bills that perished include: one allowing the posting of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms; another requiring that “In God We Trust” be displayed in government and public school buildings; and legislation mandating that the State Board of Education add instruction about the Bible to the English language arts curriculum in public schools.
Some bills permitting religious discrimination failed in the State House. Anti-abortion bills chipped away at the fringes but didn’t really get to the heart of banning the procedure entirely. One GOP leader even whined, “We got nothing.”
Brockman also says that the changing religious demographics may have been a key factor in the moderating effect:
There are bigger trends at play. While evangelicals remain the state’s largest religious group, the share of religiously unaffiliated — atheists, agnostics and those who don’t belong to any particular religion — is on the rise. One in five Texans are religiously unaffiliated, and about a third of them are under 30. Nationwide, the unaffiliated population grew by almost 7 percent between 2007 and 2014, while Christians declined by nearly 8 percent.
When Texas lawmakers are backing away from bills that benefit white evangelicals because the see the Nones coming for them, it’s good news for the country. There’s a long way to go. But even the mere threat of the Rising Nones is enough to limit the damage Christian legislators can do.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)