In Texas, I think the GOP leadership wants to unite state and evangelical church.
In what might be a first, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law inside a church. The law, effective immediately, allows clergy to refuse to turn over sermons to government entities via subpoena. The law says:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Title 6, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, is amended by adding Chapter 150A to read as follows:
CHAPTER 150A. DISCOVERY BY GOVERNMENTAL UNIT
Sec. 150A.001. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:
(1) “Governmental unit” has the meaning assigned by Section 101.001.
(2) “Religious organization” means an organization that qualifies as a religious organization under Section 11.20, Tax Code.
(3) “Religious worship” has the meaning assigned by Section 11.20, Tax Code.
Sec. 150A.002. SERMONS PRIVILEGED FROM DISCLOSURE TO GOVERNMENTAL UNIT. A governmental unit may not, in any civil action or other civil or administrative proceeding to which the governmental unit is a party, compel the production or disclosure of a written copy or audio or video recording of a sermon delivered by a religious leader during religious worship of a religious organization or compel the religious leader to testify regarding the sermon.
This law was promoted in response to a subpoena issued by the city of Houston in response to preachers advocating against a gay rights ordinance.
While the law will do the unusual thing of allowing preachers to keep sermons secret, it will also forbid subpoenas of any speeches by Imams which might be considered inflammatory.
The church signing was conducted in Grace Church with Steve Riggle as pastor. Riggle’s church is affiliated with Gateway Church in Southlake Texas. Riggle is on the board of trustees of The King’s University and has an honorary doctoral from the school which he passes off as an earned degree.
It is am amazing place we have come to when the state colludes with the church to make the church less transparent with regard to a pastor’s sermons.
On Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott contacted ten megachurch pastors about Texas HB 2899. Abbott told the pastors the bill was being held up by the Speaker of the House and asked the pastors to persuade their congregations to oppose it. Robert Morris, pastor at Gateway Church in Southlake, called HB 2899 “the bathroom bill” and urged Christian church goers to voice their opposition to their representatives. Watch Morris urge his congregation to call their legislators.
Also I want to let you know something that um, I’m gonna ask you to do something. Governor Abbott called me yesterday, uh, he’s calling-he called ten churches, um, that are mega-churches here in the, in Texas, the state of Texas. Uh, and there’s a House Bill right now, that we need to let our representatives know about, and bring it to the floor for a vote. It’s being held up right now by the Speaker of the House, and I’m saying that, uh, the leader of the House, um, I’m saying that– that is, in the state of Texas, okay, this isn’t Washington, this is Austin. Uh, but, it is 2899, HB2899.
You can go to our website, and find out how to contact your representative. Uh, it is being referred to as the bathroom bill, but please understand, this is to protect our children. We need to stand up, and as adults, that’s why we say no, you don’t drive a car when you’re 11, you don’t get to drive a car until you’re 16. Adults need to make laws and rules for children who don’t know how to make those decisions at that time.
And we don’t want to be disrespectful to anyone, but this is so that boys do not go into girls’ locker rooms, and girls do not go into boys locker rooms. And the governor said, “Please, ask your people to call their state representative by Monday. And so you can go on our website, and it says, find your representative, or whatever it is, locate, somethin’ like that, somethin’ like that.
There it is, find your local state representative click here. You just find out who your representative is, and call and say, we support, uh, and you can read about the bill, too, you can read the bill, but we want you to at least bring it to a vote. At least get it out of the committee. And this one representative, um, y’know, is holding it up. And so we-we really do need to protect our children. And I want to ask you to, so I’m asking every member of Gateway church to do that, all right
John Hagee also made this appeal to his congregation, but according to a friend who watched 10 other Texas megachurch sermons (deserves a medal), Abbott’s appeal didn’t make it in those sermons. Hagee was very direct. Listen:
I have a very urgent announcement I want every person in this building to hear. And those of you who are watching on television, especially in the state of Texas. I received a personal call from the governor of Texas Friday night, asking for the help of the people of faith in protecting our children in the Texas public schools. The governor’s asking for people of faith to call the members of the House of Representatives to pass House Bill 2899. I want you to get a piece of paper, and write this down. Pass House Bill 2899. To insure the safety and security for our children in our public school bathrooms. I want you to call Joe Strauss, if you can’t write that, take a — take your cell phone out, I know you have it, take a photo of that [pointing to screen with contact information of House State Affairs Committee Chairs]
Call Joe Strauss, call Brian Cook, Helen Giddings, the co-chairs of the committee, that are not allowing this bill to be voted on. Many Texans assume that this is going to be accomplished, because we are a conservative state–but let me tell you very candidly, we are losing this effort right now, because your elected officials have not heard from people of faith.
They have certainly heard from the opponents, they need to hear from us. And if you really want to put feet to your faith, then I encourage you to start calling, and start calling today, uh, because it will go into a computer, call tomorrow, call every day until you feel like you’ve covered the waterfront, but I want you to call those three people, and then, uh, there, you can call your-your representative, if you know that person by name. It’s VERY VERY important. Uh, how many of you understand what I’m talking about here? Very good, thank you.
Even though Morris and Hagee framed the bill as an effort to protect children, the bill actually would prevent Texas counties and cities from enacting ordinances protecting LGBT people from discrimination in jobs, housing and other public services. Worse, the bill would render existing ordinances in place in cities like Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Austin “null and void.”
The bill is linked on the Gateway Church website and leads to this one page bill.
As you can see, the word bathroom isn’t in this bill. This bill is far more encompassing than a bill about who can use what public bathroom. Currently, Texas has no statewide protections against discrimination due to sexual orientation or gender identity. According to this bill, if a class of people is not now protected by state law, then a city or county will not be able to enact protections for that class. Some cities do protect LGBT people, but these ordinances would be declared “null and void” by this bill.
While churches have always been able to opine on issues in the culture, I think this situation demonstrates one problem with churches becoming an arm of a political party. Morris and Hagee misled their congregations into thinking that a call to the legislature will keep boys out of girls’ showers. However, this bill has a much broader application. Some of the LGBT relatives of Gateway Church and Cornerstone members could lose their jobs or housing if this bill passes since the existing protections in large Texas cities will be invalidated.
The Supreme Court last week ruled 5-4 that the 14th Amendment required the states to recognize same-sex unions as legal marriages.
Today, the Family Research Council released the following press release:
Family Research Council Commends Texas Officials for Declining to Blindly Follow Five Justices
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement calling the U.S. Supreme Court ruling an act of “lawlessness” and provided guidance that “county clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex ‘marriage’ licenses. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins issued the following statement in response:
“I find it refreshing and encouraging that state officials are declining to blindly follow five justices who have redefined society’s most fundamental institution — marriage. The Court got it wrong in their ruling and they got it wrong in thinking their edict would force Americans to accept same-sex ‘marriage’ and the corresponding loss of their most basic freedoms. States must ensure the government does not use this ruling to discriminate against those who continue to believe in natural marriage,” concluded Perkins.
The effect of the AG’s opinion appears to be to allow a clerk to avoid doing their duty while referring it to someone who doesn’t mind doing it, analogous to a pharmacist who doesn’t want to fill a script for a drug that might cause an abortion.
Paxton says the Supreme Court ruling was lawless, then he tells the clerks they may not have to comply.
I wonder if the Texas clerks who are fundamentalist Christians explore the sexual morality of the straight couples who request a license before issuing it. If licenses are issued to those who meet the various clerks’ standards, then I suppose Texas could have a hodgepodge of standards which vary from clerk to clerk. Surely, if the clerks’ religious beliefs about same-sex marriage can be honored then a clerk who believes people of different religions shouldn’t marry could decline to issue a license.
There is a word for when government officials decide to do what they want to do instead of what the law requires.
A.G. Paxton, what is that word?
Now it gets serious. Textbooks written according to Texas’ curriculum standards are slated to be evaluated in public hearings amid criticism from liberal groups, according to Politco’s Stephanie Simon.
According to Simon:
Texas students may soon be reading in their history textbooks that the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses, segregated schools weren’t all that bad and taxes imposed for programs like Social Security haven’t measurably improved society.
Those passages are among dozens of biased, misleading or inaccurate lessons identified on Wednesday by a panel of scholars commissioned by a liberal advocacy group to analyze dozens of new history, geography and civics textbooks up for review by the state Board of Education.
Unfortunately, the process appears to be about winning a political battle rather than historical accuracy. Might be time for the coalition of Christian historians to get involved. I definitely plan to raise this issue at the Conference on Faith and History later this month at Pepperdine University.