Religious Freedom or Freedom to Discriminate?

State Senator Donna Campbell (R-SD25), an emergency room physician and ophthalmologist is known as a feisty conservative who takes on tough issues in Austin. Her courageous leadership in the Senate since she was elected in 2012 is a testament to her conservative values informed by her Christian faith. She is beloved by many conservatives in her district and vilified by liberal and radical left interest groups.

Senator Campbell does not shy away from lightning rod issues. In the current 84th Legislative session which began in January 2015, she is the key sponsor in the Senate of contentious and what her opponents call “controversial” legislative bills.  The Taxpayers Savings Grant which is a School Choice educational reform bill  is opposed by the gargantuan public school teachers’ and administrators’ advocacy organizations while the Restoring Religious Freedom Amendment, a constitutional amendment to strengthen the state’s religious freedom statute (Chapter 110) is vehemently opposed by homosexual advocacy organizations such as Equality Texas. Lone Star Q, an online news site that promotes homosexual rights, denounced Campbell’s bill, calling her constitutional amendment proposal “a license to discriminate” which “could also effectively prevent cities from enforcing non-discrimination ordinances if a business owner claimed “a sincerely held religious belief.”

The editors of the San Antonio Express News, the only city-wide daily newspaper mimicked the homosexual community’s objections decrying Campbell’s proposed amendment as a “grotesque license to use religion to deny equality in public accommodations to those who offend certain sensibilities.”

In the public testimonies at the San Antonio City Council chambers leading up to the council’s highly contentious vote in September of 2013, the city attorney and city manager admitted during public deliberations that there was not one prior complaint fielded by city authorities concerning discrimination against members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) community prior to the city council’s decision to support the expansion of a  non-discrimination policy  granting special rights to persons who identify themselves as “gay, lesbian, and transgendered”. The expanded ordinance to include a broad array of  sexual preferences and  identities was opposed by an overwhelming number of conservative organizations, churches, and individual residents in the community who spoke out emphatically and often at the city council’s public forums.

religious freedomTo be honest, yes, the Restoring Religious Freedom Amendment is about protecting the religious rights of individuals and organizations from harassment and legal attacks. In a discrimination suit decided last month, an administrative judge in Oregon ruled against a Christian-owned bakery in Portland for refusing to bake a ceremonial cake for a lesbian couple.  The owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa are facing a possible judgment of $75,000. In 2012 Elane Photography in New Mexico was found guilty of discrimination and fined $6,700 for refusing to photograph a same sex commitment ceremony. Other suits are spreading as more municipalities and states are expanding non-discrimination statutes to grant special rights to persons who identify with certain sexual preferences contrary to their nature.

According to Senator Campbell in a document provided by her office which lays out her position, the amendment she is sponsoring is meant to “protect business owners and Texans of faith from being penalized simply for expressing their traditional religious values.” Her bill would “ensure that no local, state, or county government can burden our right to act in accordance with our faith unless government can prove a compelling interest to interfere and it is the least restrictive means of involvement.”

Furthermore, the amendment “does not change existing state law regarding discrimination. Sexual preferences and practices have never been protected by law under state or federal non-discrimination laws… and If passed by the Legislature, this resolution would go in front of the voters and be decided by the people of Texas. This is in stark contrast to local ordinances that make it illegal to oppose same-sex marriage and have never gone in front of the voters. Eighteen other states have adopted similar language in their constitutions, and Texans of faith should be afforded the same guaranteed protection of religious liberty.”

A homosexual activist group recently sent a cake to Donna’s office in the shape of the state of Texas with a note, “Texas is Ready for Marriage Equality”. She commented during a phone interview with the Alamo Torch that she is “not going to back down”.

Texas constitutional amendments must be passed by 2/3 of Senate and House of Representatives and the majority of voters.