AUSTIN — The Texas Senate has approved a bill that would protect pastors from legal action if they refuse to officiate same-sex ceremonies.
Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) presented S.B. 2065, entitled “Freedom of Religion with Respect to Recognizing or Performing Certain Marriages.”
“A religious organization, an organization supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, an individual employed by a religious organization while acting in the scope of that employment, or a clergy or minister may not be required to solemnize any marriage, provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage, or treat
any marriage as valid for any purpose if the action would cause the organization or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief,” it reads.
The legislation also prevents faith-based organizations from being sued for declining to directly or indirectly participate in the event.
“A refusal to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges [under this law] is not the basis for a civil or criminal cause of action or any other action by this state or a political subdivision of this state to penalize or withhold benefits or privileges, including tax exemptions or governmental contracts, grants, or licenses, from any protected organization or individual,” it states.
State Senators debated the bill on Monday, with some stating that it is necessary due to the growing pressure on Christians to accommodate homosexuality and others calling the legislation discriminatory. The publication Towelroad classified the bill as a continuance of a “full-fledged assault on same-sex marriage.”
“Pastors’ First Amendment rights are very important, and they should not be caused to do something that violates their sincerely held beliefs,” Estes told Breitbart Texas.
“I just hope you’re not getting people afraid of something that’s not a problem,” Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) asserted. “I don’t see what the problem is that you’re trying to solve.”
But Dave Welch, president of Texas Pastor Council Action told reporters that he thought Whitmire’s statement was naive.
“Senator Whitmire apparently lives in a parallel universe that does not have the Human Rights Campaign, President Barack Obama and Mayors like Annise Parker in Houston who are willing and committed to using police powers to force acceptance of the LGBTQIA agenda,” he said.
As previously reported, Texas Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz told reporters in 2013 that he believes churches could be the next target for homosexual activists.
“There are a lot of Christian scholars, when they talk about the marriage issue, they see it in essence going down this line of potential hate speech from the pulpit,” David Brody of CBN stated. “What is your sense about where this potentially could be going?”
“Well, if you look at other nations that have gone down the road towards gay marriage, that’s the next step where it gets enforced,” Cruz replied. “It gets enforced against Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages, who speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage.”
Other states have presented similar bills to protect pastors, such as in South Dakota, Arizona and Utah.