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Government/Politics

State Lawmaker Proposes Legislation That Provides Additional Protection For Religious Freedom

Should the state of Texas provide stated additional legal protection for an individual’s right to religious freedom when it concerns counties, municipalities or even homeowners’ associations?   One state lawmaker thinks it does, and has authored a potential constitutional amendment ahead of the 2015 session, a clause that would protect anyone wanting to make a public expression of their religious beliefs.

The U.S. Constitution already makes clear that Congress should not pass any law that infringes on an individual’s right to religious freedom.  The Texas bill, authored by Dallas Republican State Rep., Jason Villalba, mirrors that federal law, but provides those same legal protections for individuals at the state, county and city level, and even homeowners in a battle with homeowners’ associations.

“So for instance, a homeowner’s association may not say 'you may not put a nativity scene in your front yard,' or 'you can not display a Hanukkah candelabra,'” Villalba explains.

Villalba says his office is trying to plan for situations that occur across Texas, pointing to a situation in Cherokee County, where a state judge is being threatened with a civil rights lawsuit for placing a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn. 

“This is not about the “War on Christmas,” this is about removing the vestiges of our religious heritage from the public square, and that’s what gives me the greatest pause,” says the Representative. :09 secs

Villalba says his proposed constitutional amendment provides protections for every faith, unless the practice of that faith prevents compelling state interest, such as a student not attending class or interrupting a class to practice their faith.