For Immediate Release April 16, 2015
CONTACT: Bee Moorhead, Executive Director, Texas Impact • 512-636-3135 • email@example.com
Texas Impact Board says lack of stakeholder involvement has led to at least 45 bills with potential dangerous, unintended consequences for denominations, faith-based groups and crucial state services
AUSTIN –Leaders from a number of Texas religious communities expressed grave concern at a press conference today regarding legislators’ unprecedented efforts in the current legislative session to influence the affairs of religious organizations.
Texas Impact leaders, who represent a broad spectrum of Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations from across the state, raised concerns about at least 45 bills that would have serious ramifications, not only for faith communities, but for state agencies and programs that depend on faith-based partners to deliver crucial services including disaster response, child welfare, nutrition assistance, nursing home care, and others.
Texas Impact Board President Reverend Dr. Whitney Bodman predicted, "If these bills become law, many members of religious organizations will be shocked by the consequences. This narrow-minded legislation would cause harm to people and institutions that Texans hold dear. Texas faith communities deserve better from their legislators."
Several of the bills of concern would limit the ability of congregations and religiously affiliated facilities like seminaries to prohibit guns on their property. United Methodist Reverend Dr. T. Randall Smith said, “Many denominations, including the United Methodist Church, require all their facilities to be gun-free zones. Throwing up regulatory hurdles in state law complicates our task and tramples on our rights as property owners.”
Other high-profile bills are intended to limit the spread of “Sharia law” by restricting the applicability of “foreign law” in Texas courts and increasing disclosures and limits on mediation. “In attacking the freedom of Texas Muslims to practice their faith, legislators could undermine practices in many faith traditions and secular voluntary organizations designed to limit litigation and promote peace and justice,” said Ellen Sable, representing the National Council of Jewish Women in Texas.
Still other bills would disrupt the calibration of Texas’ already robust religious freedom protections. “Texas’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed with broad bipartisan support in 1999 after a broad-based stakeholder process involving more than 50 organizations and 120 diverse faith leaders. Today’s proposed bills and constitutional amendments would undo that historic good work, with possible chilling impacts on faith-based provision of social services,” said Presbyterian Reverend Tom Heger. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Religious leaders have expressed concern throughout the legislative session that stakeholder processes, traditionally a key component of the legislative process, have been largely absent. Lack of stakeholder involvement has led to bills with unintended consequences and in some cases bills working at cross purposes. “Dozens of these bills would impact core religious functions and key services, and the authors have not attempted to address, or in many cases even understand, the faith communities’ needs and concerns,” said Texas Impact board secretary Amanda Quraishi. “Texas Impact has had the same phone number since 1973…if legislators want to work with the faith community, they know where to find us.”
Bookmark/Search this post with