Bill Number: HB 3602
Bill Caption: Relating to the religious freedom of a conscientious objector to act or fail to act with respect to certain issues of marriage, sexual relations, and gender.
Author: Bell Jr., Cecil (R-District 3) | Springer Jr., Drew (R-District 68)
Stance: Against
Related Bills: HB 3567
Committee: State Affairs

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Description

This bill gives specific rights to people with “sincerely held religious beliefs” in regards to marriage being between one man and one woman, sex belonging only within the marriage relationship or that gender identity “should be determined by the predominant chromosomal sex”.

Those special rights are:

  1. The right to “freely act or refuse to act” in accordance with those beliefs listed above.
  2. A person or government may not take “any adverse action” against an individual because of their sincerely held religious beliefs or actions that result from that belief. This portion is limited by protections afforded by other laws.

“Adverse actions” are defined specifically, including: being fired from or demoted in your job; “increased surveillance of the person”; threats; fines against the person; limited access to benefits; denial of service by a business; any discrimination; any action meant to deter action or inaction based on this belief.

This right to “freely act or refuse to act” is limited in that you cannot “act or refuse to act” simply for the purpose of harassment. However, if your purpose is not simply harassment, you seem to be able to do whatever your “sincerely held religious belief” requires of you in respect to the three subjects listed above.

Analysis

To begin with, this bill gives special rights to people with religious beliefs that are not afforded to non-religious Texans, a violation of the Texas Constitution’s Bill of Rights, Section 3.

The right of an individual to “freely act or refuse to act” does not seem to have reasonable limitations. Whereas the second part has the limits it to fit within other existing and future law, this right to “freely act or refuse to act” seems to give you the right to break any law in the carrying out or refusal to carry out your religious belief.

For example, this could include a landlord refusing to rent an apartment to an unmarried couple because they do not want to facilitate sexual relationships outside of a marriage. Or, to refuse to allow a transgender Texan to use a restroom in a public business.

The second part of this bill attempts to protect people with “sincerely held religious beliefs” from consequences of their beliefs, by not being fired, etc. as listed above. However, this provision goes so far as to protect an individual from being the object of a joke degrading their beliefs by any private individual, or any criticism of their beliefs meant to change their behavior. This goes so far as to infringe on First Amendment protections to freedom of speech. This might even be construed as an anti-blasphemy bill, in regard to the three specific beliefs listed above.

In this end, this bill creates exclusive privilege for these specific beliefs -- but only those held only for specifically religious reasons -- that exempt the holder of these beliefs from the consequences of their beliefs or their actions, that are not afforded to other beliefs or lack of belief.

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