Conservatives in Texas are up in arms protesting several bills that would expand LGBTQ rights in the state, according to Dallas News, arguing that such measures would “effectively ban the Bible.”
The religious advocacy group Texas Values is “flooding social media and the conservative press with allegations that passing the bills would force Christians to violate their faith” and insisting the legislative efforts are anti-Christian.
“‘Ban the Bible’ doesn’t have to mean confiscating physical Bibles. LGBT activists aren’t that obvious with their intentions (yet). But it does mean something even worse: stripping Texans of their right to practice biblical teachings in their day to day lives,” Texas Values communications associate James Wesolek wrote in The Federalist last week. “Just like at the Alamo, Texans must once again stand and fight for our freedoms. We must dare liberals to ‘Come and Take it!’”
But lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans and their allies call these claims totally false. The bills do not mention the Scriptures or other religious texts, they said, and some bills even exempt religious organizations.
Dallas News reported that a dozen bills are targeted on Texas Values’ website, ranging from protections in the workforce to eradicating the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.
One bill would streamline the process for modifying birth certificates, letting transgender people more easily change the sex on their identification documents. Another would repeal the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. And several others would make it illegal for employers, landlords or business owners to deny a job, a place to live or a service to someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The bills are similar to laws in at least 19 other states where it’s illegal to fire or refuse to hire people because they are part of the LGBTQ community.
The employment anti-discrimination bill is “absolutely not” about banning the Bible, according to the bill’s author, Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas; rather, it is about guaranteeing that Texans will not lose their jobs based on their sexual orientation.
“If you think it should not be OK for your employer to terminate you based on who you date, then you should support my bill,” said Johnson, a lawyer who is running for mayor of Dallas. “You can try to make it about something else, but it’s the same kind of protection we provide to people in the workplace based on religion, based on race.”
“It’s not about special treatment," he said. "House Bill 850 is a civil rights bill.”
Empower Texans, a political action committee working to oust moderate Republicans, and the far-right Texas Pastors Council also support the “No Bible Ban” movement.
Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, singled out House Bill 517 for criticism — a measure that would “penalize licensed counselors who attempt to change a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity or to reduce a child's same-sex attractions.”
Telling a Christian counselor he cannot use biblical teachings to address a child’s sexual feelings, Saenz said, is tantamount to removing the Scriptures altogether. Several states have banned such counseling, known colloquially as "conversion" or "ex-gay therapy," for minors. But it remains legal in Texas.
In practice, this is the same as a Bible ban, Saenz said: “We think it allows someone to use a government law to take the Bible out of someone’s hand in that situation. If you’re going to be punished for believing what the Bible says, you’re banning the Bible.”
Rep. Mary González, chairwoman of the new Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, compared the “No Bible Ban” campaign to previous efforts to bar transgender people from using bathrooms corresponding to their preferred gender.
Though she acknowledged the pro-LGBTQ bills are unlikely to pass this year, Gonzalez is hopeful that such measures will become law in the future.
“Texans are growing in this area,” she said, smiling. “The culture is changing.”