A bill that would stop governments from punishing any person or business over religiously motivated actions is alive in the Texas legislature despite efforts to quash it.
Texas Republican Sen. Bryan Hughes filed Senate Bill 1978, nicknamed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The fast-food outlet was banned from San Antonio’s airport in March after politicians claimed it indulged in “anti-LGBTQ behavior” by supporting groups that oppose same-sex marriage, the Austin Statesman reported.
The San Antonio action was later copied in New York State, which banned Chick-fil-A from an airport.
The City of San Antonio’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A based on the religious beliefs associated with the company and its owners is the opposite of tolerance. It’s discriminatory, and not only out of step with Texas values, but inconsistent with the Constitution and Texas law. pic.twitter.com/iOk7G9Eltv
— Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) March 28, 2019
“We’ve heard disturbing stories about folks being punished just because they choose to contribute to a religious organization that shares their views or values,” Hughes said.
Hughes said the proposal reflects and protects basic American freedoms.
“The bill as filed ensures religious beliefs are protected from discrimination. It’s about the First Amendment and freedom of speech, freedom of religion — those uniquely American rights,” Hughes said during a Senate committee session on Monday.
The Senate allowed the bill to move forward through the committee process without public notice.
The Senate’s action was in contrast to that of the Texas House, which last week killed the House version of the bill after Democratic state Rep. Julie Johnson, a member of the Texas House’s LGBTQ caucus, instigated a parliamentary maneuver. The House action followed public hearings on the proposal.
The Texas Freedom Network objected to the Senate initiative.
“Ramming this bill through doesn’t change the fact that the majority of Texans oppose laws that allow the use of religion to hurt people simply because of who they are or whom they love,” Network President Kathy Miller said in a statement.
Hughes, however, said that the Senate bill reflects the extensive debate that took place in the House.
“The issue was thoroughly vetted in the House,” Hughes said. “The process is clearly working.”
SB 1978 would ban state agencies and local governments from punishing people and businesses for legal actions taken in the name of religion, such as making donations to groups opposing same-sex marriage, and calls for “protection of religious beliefs and moral convictions, including beliefs and convictions regarding marriage.”
“Fundamental rights like the free exercise of religion have to be respected,” Hughes said.
To make it into law, the bill must clear the Senate and pass the Texas House before the end of the legislative session.
“They’re not giving up any more than we are giving up,” Johnson said Monday, according to the Times Record News.
“We are going to fight this bill as hard as we can.”