“Save Chick-fil-A” bill is a thinly-veiled attempt to protect religious privilege

The Texas Legislature has flagrantly evaded rules and procedure to revive one of its so-called “religious freedom” bills that is likely to advance to Gov. Greg Abbott for signature any day.

SB 1978 intends to codify the right to discriminate based on religious beliefs. The bill is being deceitfully dubbed the “save Chick-fil-A” bill as a response to the fast-food chain being barred from opening a location at the San Antonio airport due to its donations to anti-LGBTQ groups. The Religious Right, unsurprisingly, quickly employed this as an opportunity to play the victim and to advance its insidious agenda.

The bill was rushed through both chambers of the Legislature, passing out of committees without quorum and receiving floor votes with no public notice. Christian nationalists in Texas threw out all the rules and procedures in their desperate rush to protect discrimination in the name of God. Chick-fil-A was denied a spot in the San Antonio airport because it supports groups dedicated to making LGBTQ Americans second-class citizens. It uses its power and money to discriminate in the name of God, and San Antonio understandably did not want to support that discrimination. But in the land of "small government," the state Legislature stepped in to help the poor, oppressed oppressors.

SB 1978 is modeled after Project Blitz template legislation, the Christian fundamentalists’ nationwide legislative push seeking to inject state legislatures across the country with a whole host of religious bills. This bill was taken right out of the 148-page Project Blitz “playbook,” and, like others of its kind, intends to weaponize religious liberty, treating it as an unfettered license to discriminate based on their personal religious beliefs.

Gov. Abbott, who himself has a history of discriminating against minorities and has worked to make Christians a favored, protected class, is likely to sign the bill. Gov. Abbott also has a history of tangling with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. In 2016, FFRF sued him after he censored FFRF’s holiday display in the Texas Capitol. In 2017, a federal judge ruled that Abbott violated FFRF’s free speech rights by forbidding a nonreligious display, which Abbott did while promoting a Christian nativity. FFRF remains committed to fighting against Abbott’s attempts to use his government office to advance his personal religion, “Save Chick-fil-A” bill included.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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