Upcoming DHS Webinar: Resources to help houses of worship prepare for emergencies, including active shooter incidents - July 1, 2015

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 1:00pm - 2:15pm

Join the DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships for a July 1 webinar, entitled "Resources to help houses of worship prepare for emergencies", at 1PM!

RSVP here.

This webinar is a collaborative effort between the DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, a center of the White House Office of Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help connect faith-based and community organizations with tools, resources, and partners to help prepare their houses of worship for all hazards, including active shooter incidents.

RSVP here.

They also provided a list of resources for you and your congregations:

Free online independent study courses for everyone:

Emergency Operations Planning Resources:

Active Shooter Preparedness Resources:

Friday, June 26, 2015 CPRI Monthly Faith-Based Call, Featuring A Discussion On Aging

Fri, 06/26/2015 - 11:00am - 12:00pm

UPDATE: Tomorrow's call will feature Holly Riley from the Department of Aging and Disability Services!

Don't miss out on Age Well Live Well Resources:


Friday June 26 at 11:00, Texas Impact will host the monthly Community Partner Recruitment Initiative (CPRI) Faith-based call.

In addition to CPRI AmeriCorp VISTAs leading a discussion about the Community Partner Program, Congregational Outreach Director Scott Atnip and Texas Impact staff will talk about other opportunities for local communities of faith to partner with state agencies as part of Texas Impact’s “Better Neighbor” initiative.

This month, a portion of the call will focus on how congregations and people of faith can help connect aging Texans with state and community resources. We look forward to visiting with you on the call and hope you will invite people you know who might be interested.

Time is 11:00AM, Friday, June 26. Dial in: (512) 472-3903, Input 201# at the automatic message, Password 1973#

Better Neighbors | June 2015: Aging in Texas

Download the Printable Newsletter. (Right-click and choose "Save Link As...")

Water in Texas: Interregional Debate on Regional Water Planning, May 25, 2015

Better Neighbor Energy Efficiency Event - June 2015

Wed, 06/03/2015 - 7:00pm - 8:30pm

Texas Impact is coming to San Antonio to talk about programs to help strengthen our community!

Join us to discuss Energy Efficiency, the Community Partners Program, the Welcoming Communities Initiative, and Congregational Engagement Strategies. You'll get updates from Texas Impact staff, learn how you can help low-income Texan and get an update about local faith-based immigration response in San Antonio.

Time: 7:00 p.m., June 3, 2015

Location: Episcopal Church of Reconciliation
8900 Starcrest Dr.
San Antonio, TX 78217

Better Neighbors | May 2015: Energy Efficiency

Download the Printable Newsletter. (Right-click and choose "Save Link As...")

Action Alert: Step on the Gas, Hit the Brakes

UPDATED with new information regarding SB 2065.

Now that the deadline has passed for House bills to pass the House, the focus is on bills that already have passed one chamber and just need a little push to get through the second...or a gentle tap on the brakes to keep them from becoming law.

Find legislator phone numbers, bill information and more at texasimpact.org


This Week in the Legislature: May 9–May 15, 2015

Legislative Update #17 | View Archive


Action Alert: Opportunities and Threats

House bills are facing hard deadlines: Monday is the last day for House committees to report House bills, and Thursday is the last day for House bills to be heard on the House floor on second reading. Two of Texas Impact’s priority bills are subject to those deadlines and need your calls right away. We also are still urging calls to the budget conferees to support a $10/hour floor for community attendants, and we’ve posted more helpful handouts on that issue.

We are still seeking a resolution to denominational concerns regarding HB 3567 and SB 2065, the “pastor protection” bills. Denominational leaders and attorneys say the bills would set a dangerous precedent unless they are amended to remove the threat of internal denominational lawsuits. 

Find legislator phone numbers, bill information and more at texasimpact.org

Religious Freedom Means Everyone

Protestant Bishops' Amendment

NEW! Talking Points on the Protestant Bishops’ Amendment to HB 3567/SB 2065

  1. Bishops of several Protestant denominations and their attorneys have raised concern that unless it is amended, HB 3567 creates an avenue for clergy—and, importantly, other church employees—to bring lawsuits against their church or denomination.  In other words, against their employer. 
  2. In some denominations, such as the Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Lutheran Church, the pastor is an employee of the denomination and is subject to what is called the “discipline” or “canons” of the church. These rules are doctrine – sincerely held religious beliefs, and the employer denomination can discipline pastors for acting against it.
  3. The right of denominations to discipline pastors is well settled. But HB 3567 would call it into question. Attorneys for the denominations agree, a pastor so disciplined could use this bill to sue the denomination, as could other church employees such as choir directors, custodians and childcare workers.
  4. Without the Protestant Bishops’ Amendment, HB 3567/SB2065 actually would restrict the religious freedom of millions of Texans, and establish a dangerous precedent. It will result in lawsuits that will use precious tithes to litigate—money that would be better spent on the charitable work of the church.

HB 3567 by Sanford and SB 2065 by Estes are called "Pastor Protection" bills, but without clarifying language, they will spell employment law problems for some Christian denominations.

Both of these bills have passed out of committee—SB 2065 is expected to come to the Senate floor on Monday, May 11, and HB 3567 is scheduled to come to the House floor on Tuesday, May 12.

Unless they are amended, these bills would allow clergy and other church employees to sue their denominations based on personal religious beliefs.  

Suggested message for legislators:

I am calling to ask Senator/Representative ______  to oppose SB 2065/ HB 3567 unless and until it is amended to address concerns about denominational governance. The amendment is necessary to ensure Texas is equally respectful of all denominations' First Amendment rights. A law that protects pastors in some churches should not jeopardize other churches' freedom from government interference. Thank you for standing up for all Texans' right to religious freedom.

Read Texas Impact’s press release


This Week in the Legislature: May 2-May 8, 2015

Legislative Update #16 | View Archive


This Week in the Legislature
May 2 – May 8, 2015
Days 110-116; 24 days to go

By this time in a legislative session, action is largely focused on the floors of both chambers while committees meet quickly in formal meetings to vote on pending bills that have already had hearings, or conduct short public hearings on the other chamber’s bills. If the legislative session was compared to a charity "coin vortex funnel," then the month of May is represented by the bottle neck where the speed of the coin is greatest and deadlines are rapidly approaching.

Top Story: Tough session for minority denominations and religions

Press Release: SB 2065 and HB 3567 Threaten First Amendment Rights for Some Denominations

Texas Impact: SB 2065 and HB 3567 Threaten First Amendment Rights for Some Denominations

AUSTIN—Texas Impact, Texas’ oldest and largest statewide interfaith advocacy network, remains opposed to SB 2065 and HB 3567 because the bills contain provisions that could increase lawsuits within churches and denominations.

Legal experts from Texas Impact’s member denominations say the bills limit religious freedom by allowing clergy and other employees to sue their employer denomination if their beliefs conflict concerning marriage.

Proponents of SB 2065 and HB 3567 describe the bills as “pastor protection” and say they are necessary to shield members of the clergy from future lawsuits should the U.S. Supreme Court rule that same-sex marriage prohibitions are unconstitutional.

However, as written, the bills would create a cause of action for clergy and other church employees to sue their employers if they are disciplined for disobeying denominational policies regarding marriage.

Attorneys for several mainline Protestant denominations provided the authors of both bills with amendment language to address their concerns, but neither author accepted the language. The amendment language would clarify that the bills are not intended to create a cause of action for lawsuits within denominations.

“No church wants lawsuits—from outside the church or from within. It would be simple to amend these bills to address the concerns of all denominations so that everyone could support them. Instead, lawmakers seem to favor certain church structures over others,” Texas Impact Executive Director Bee Moorhead said.

Dozens of pastors testified for the bill in public hearings in the House and Senate. Supporters were overwhelmingly Baptist, with different accountability structures than “connectional” denominations such as the United Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches.

“As currently written, both SB 2065 and HB 3567 intrude on denominational management and discipline of clergy, discipline that is fundamental to various denominational structures and freely entered into by pastors in those denominations,” Moorhead said. “We will continue to urge the legislature to adopt language we are offering to correct the bills and prevent the intrusion of the state into religious choice.”

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This Week in the Legislature: April 25–May 1, 2015

Legislative Update #15 | View Archive


This Week in the Legislature
April 25 – May 1, 2015
Days 103-109; 31 days to go

As deadlines approach, attention in the last 30 days turns to floor action, as professional advocates are working hard to get scheduled or block bills in House Calendars, or to get 19 votes to suspend the rules or get 13 Senators to block consideration of a bill in the Senate. This week saw committee hearings on payday lending reform, death penalty abolition, and a good health bill; the House passed the Innocence Commission bill; and the politics of the “pastor protection” bill has made addressing the employment law concerns of hierarchical denominations difficult.

Top Story: Government interference with religious employment law

Action Alert: Good Health and Bad Medicine

Medicaid expansion is currently stalled, but legislators are considering a number of bills that would keep Texans healthy. Call your legislator and urge support!

On the down side, legislators are considering a host of bills that would encourage inappropriate government involvement in religion. Proponents say the legislation is needed to protect religious freedom...but these bills would create religious winners and losers. Tell lawmakers "religious freedom" means everyone.

Find legislator phone numbers, bill information and more below:

Take Action Now! Support Good Bills

With 35 days left in the legislative session, nerves are starting to fray. It's easy to focus on the negative, but focusing on the positive will benefit Texas more. Here are three steps legislators could take this week for the common good:

  1. Support Community Attendants
  2. Strengthen Payday Lending Regulation
  3. Increase Compassion in Texas' Criminal Justice System

Find legislator phone numbers, bill information and more at texasimpact.org

This Week in the Legislature: April 18-April 24, 2015

Legislative Update #14 | View Archive


This Week in the Legislature
April 18 – April 24, 2015

Days 96-102; 38 days to go

Tensions rise between the House and Senate, between the Legislature and the Governor, and within both chambers’ memberships.  

Top Story: Mounting Tensions Undermine Legislative Process

Many observers feel strongly that interpersonal and ideological conflict is slowing significantly the progress of major and minor legislation, including bills addressing border security, open carry, private school vouchers, tax cuts and pre-K. Nevertheless, budget bills have passed both chambers, clearing the way for House and Senate conferees to put a final budget together.

Play-by-Play

It’s not unusual for tensions to escalate between the House and Senate during late April, and this session is no different. Some will remember that two weeks ago, State Representative Dennis Bonnen took on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick over the chambers’ competing tax cut plans.

One clear sign of tension is the slow pace with which chambers are referring each other’s bills to committee. Both chambers are choosing to pass their own bills over the other chamber’s version. For instance, the House passed HB 910, its open carry bill, even though the Senate companion (SB 17) has been received in the House, guaranteeing that one chamber will have to hear the contentious and time-consuming bill all over again if it wants the bill to become law.

On Monday, Rep. Bonnen accused the Lt. Gov. of “playing games” on border security and bringing bad Washington-style politics “to Austin instead of solving problems.” The Senate passed SB 3, the Senate’s companion legislation to HB 11, authored by Rep. Bonnen, which passed the House more than six weeks ago. The rest of the House’s border security package, HB 10 and HB 12, is also immobile in the Senate.

n Tuesday, the Senate voted 18-12 to suspend the rules and bring up SB 4, the Lt. Gov.’s school voucher bill. The bill passed 17-13. Over the weekend, a motorist ran a traffic signal and injured Senator Kel Seliger, who was on a motorcycle. His injuries were not life threatening, but required surgery at Brackenridge in Austin. Many speculate that Senator Seliger, a senator from a rural district without private schools that would benefit from vouchers and only public schools that would have funds diverted to private schools, was the 13th vote blocking SB 4 from coming to the floor.

On Wednesday, that tension boiled over into the public as R.G. Ratcliffe of Texas Monthly reported. Lt. Gov. Patrick declared he was tired of Governor Abbott and Speaker Straus “picking on me.”

On Thursday, the so-called tea party members of the House offered amendments to the Department of State Health Services’ (DSHS) Sunset bill that would further restrict abortions. The debate was less than civil, and after the amendment was adopted and hours had been spent on the bill, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer called a sustainable point of order, forcing the bill’s author to take the bill back to committee to cure the point of order and strip off the amendments.

With three weeks until the deadline for House bills to clear the House, many speculate as to the timing of these amendments. By complicating the DSHS Sunset legislation, tea party members used up valuable time, diminishing the chances of passage for many other bills.

In other political news, two of the Speaker’s top Chairs have already been “primaried.” The Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek reports on the primary challenges coming to Chairman Charlie Geren and Chairman Jim Keffer.

In HD 124, former Bexar county prosecutor Ina Minjarez defeated former City Councilmember Delicia Herrera by a vote of 1,331 – 1,090. Each House District contains roughly 170,000 people, 125,000 of which are usually citizens of voting age. In this race only 2,421 people voted, or 2.77% turnout.

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