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Once again with “religious freedom” legislation

I have three things to say about this.

RedEquality

State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, says he plans to re-file legislation next session that would supplement the state’s existing law to allow business owners to refuse services to people whose lifestyles clash with their religious beliefs.

“Nobody should be forced to go against their conscience or religious beliefs,” he said.

One of the key principles upon which the country and state were founded is the protection of religious beliefs, he said.

But just like in the 2015 legislative session, Krause is expected to face opposition from groups in the state’s business community. Bill Hammond, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business, said corporations would look to other states when it is time to relocate if Krause’s vision becomes a reality.

“You have to weigh the negative impact on Texas if this were to become the law of the land,” Hammond said. “It’s flustering to see.”

Krause said next legislative session, he again would seek to change the state constitution – which requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and voter approval at the ballot box, a much more difficult hurdle to clear than just the simple majority need to pass regular bills – because religious freedom deserves constitutional protection.

“I wanted to put it in the constitution to make it even stronger,” Krause said. “It is still something I think is very important.”

Hammond said the constitutional amendment would be harder to undo if a future legislature decided that the policy is harmful or discriminatory.

1. Of course a constitutional amendment would be harder to undo. That’s the reason why the 2005 Double Secret Illegal Anti-Gay Marriage amendment was pushed through. We could have gone decades before there was a two thirds majority in both houses to repeal that, and the same would be true for Krause’s anti-equality measure. The good news is that even at current levels, there isn’t a two-thirds majority of Republican legislators in either house (*), so the task of blocking it is eminently doable. Yes, there are a few Democrats out there who can’t be counted on – and yes, I’m looking at you, Sen. Lucio – but we only need to block it in one chamber, and the prospects of picking up at least a seat or two in the House are pretty good. So while the threat of ordinary legislation making it through is very real, the bar for a constitutional amendment is likely too high to clear.

2. Let’s be very clear about this: Despite what Krause and others like him my say, a right to systematically refuse service, housing, employment, or whatever else – the list goes on and on – to a group of people is a right to discriminate, and a right to discriminate against someone is a right to discriminate against anyone. And I’m sorry, but if your sincerely-held beliefs tell you that you must not treat some group of people as fellow human beings, then your sincerely-held beliefs are immoral and wrong.

3. Have I mentioned lately that the business lobby could put its considerable resources towards defeating legislators like Matt Krause and electing ones that better represent their interests? Because they totally could if they really wanted to. Perhaps the North Carolina experience will provide them sufficient incentive to do so.

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4 Comments

  1. john mckee says:

    I keep wondering who gets to decide? Who’s sincerely held beliefs are actionable? Is it the cashier at the Walgreen’s that “doesn’t believe” in medication in general that gets to trump your doctor’s orders? Is it the maintenance guy at the courthouse that gets to say whether they give marriage licenses to gay couples or only the District Clerk? Who is to decide this morass?

    Extend it to the ridiculous. I have a problem with meat eating. Do I get to say no one buys meat at my Kroger?

  2. Temple Houston says:

    I seem to recall that “sincerely held religious belief” was used to justify slavery and segregation. I am also aware that these “sincerely held religious beliefs” are subject to change at the will of the believer (e.g., the Mormons’ stance on Black membership). Indeed, over the centuries religious belief has shown itself to be very, very mutable. Unlike race, skin color, and sexual orientation, an individual’s religious belief is frequently subject to change, often for trivial reasons. To grant holders of such a “sincere religious belief” legal immunity is to establish a class of people entitled to exercise “special rights” above and beyond those of other people, to-wit: (1) the “right” to exclude other individuals from access to the government services provided by a government (or government-funded) agency; or (2) the “right” to refuse to provide business services otherwise being offered to the public at large. Authorizing the right to discriminate based on a state-supported religious belief strikes me as tantamount to the establishment of a religion by the state. I always thought that was a no no.

  3. […] the Kuff warns about the likelihood of North Carolina-style anti-equality legislation being put forth in next year’s […]

  4. […] the Kuff warns about the likelihood of North Carolina-style anti-equality legislation being put forth in next year’s […]

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