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Senate Committee Invites Testimony from Texas Impact Attorney Josh Houston
Joshua Houston, General Counsel for Texas Impact and the Interfaith Center, provided invited testimony on religious liberty, the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the importance of inclusive stakeholder processes to the Senate Committee on State Affairs, February 17, 2016.
Houston affirmed Texas Impact's support of the “compelling state interest test” as the appropriate test for government restraint of individual religious liberty. Discussing the Center's report, Equal Liberty, Texas Impact supports the application of three principles to any legislation affecting religion:
- Government must not prefer or disadvantage one faith relative to another faith, or no faith at all.
- Government must not force any person to act against their conscience unless there is a state interest that compels it.
- Government must not permit adherents of one faith to harm non-adherents as an expression of faith.
Houston argues that, with respect to any governmental action affecting religion, all three principles must be applied. Applying Texas Impact’s three principles to legislative policy development would uphold the Founders' values of disestablishment and free exercise. Houston suggests that the Founders built religious freedom using the architecture of two twin buttresses compressing against one another, using the tension to hold up the structure of religious liberty. If the First Amendment contained only the Free Exercise Clause, then there would be a risk of theocracy arising through the democratic process. If the First Amendment contained only the Establishment Clause, then there would be a risk of purging religion from the public square. Fortunately, our founders prevented both of these outcomes.