Texas has a new unnecessary and harmful law in the name of religious freedom.
Both chambers of the Texas Statehouse recently approved House Bill 3859, with the Orwellian name the "Freedom to Serve Children Act," which allows child welfare providers to decline services on the basis of "the provider's sincerely held religious beliefs."
"House Bill 3859 would allow faith-based organizations to place a child in a religion-based school; deny referrals for abortion-related contraceptives, drugs or devices; and refuse to contract with other organizations that don't share their religious beliefs," reports the Texas Tribune.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on Thursday, June 15.
Texas has no justification for such legislation when the First Amendment has guarded our freedom of religion for so long.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That's our First Amendment. For years, decades, centuries, it has protected the religious freedom of Americans. The First Amendment does this by preventing the government from weighing in on religious issues, from endorsing one religion over another or even religion over nonreligion, and, most importantly, by ensuring the separation of state and church.
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. So there is no logical reason to pass lesser state laws that claim to do something our revered Constitution already does. The question then arises as to why the Texas Legislature feels the need to put into effect a measure such as HB 3859.
The answer is simple: The true purpose of the new push for "religious freedom" is to privilege religious belief — to give religionists a license to discriminate. HB 3859 is a perfect example. It will not serve children; it will allow believers to refuse to place children in loving, caring environments.
During the legislative debate over HB 3859, a Texas state senator laid bare the actual motivation.
"It seems to me that the focus is in protecting the agency and not really concerned about the interest of the child and making sure that the child has a loving home," Sen. Sylvia Garcia said. "If we were really concerned about that, we wouldn't be concerned about protections for an agency."
FFRF agrees that the welfare of the children of Texas seems to have been far from the minds of Texas legislators who approved HB 3859.
"The Texas Statehouse has yet again pandered to the most regressive elements in society to push a discriminatory, faith-based agenda," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Legislators should not play (theo)political football with one of the state's most vulnerable populations."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 29,000 nonreligious members across the country, including 1,200-plus in Texas. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional separation between state and church.