As an overzealous judiciary continues to override the will of the people, defending religious liberty has become a necessary battle for conservatives nationwide. With a devout and pro-liberty population, Texas seemed poised to protect the right of citizens to freely exercise their beliefs without threat of government action. However, despite efforts of conservative lawmakers religious liberty legislation died a slow death in the Texas Legislature.
Krause took action following the passage of a similar bill in Indiana. However, after big business made open threats to Indiana, their political establishment watered down the legislation to a shadow of its former self. The empty shell that passed would sound strong on the campaign trail but serve as a poor shield for religious liberty in court. The same pattern followed in Arkansas where the liberal lobby and big business, emboldened by their win in Indiana, cajoled the governor into vetoing religious liberty legislation and once again compromising on a weaker version.
With the battle raging and body blows being struck to the conservative movement nationwide, Texas had an opportunity to stand strong against the tide and end the further erosion of religious liberty. Yet despite the battle raging, Texas would sit on the sidelines. Big Business, led by Texas Association of Business CEO Bill Hammond, came out in opposition to Krause’s legislation. The measure, HJR 125, died a slow death in the House State Affairs Committee without even receiving a vote.
With strong momentum on their side, opponents of religious liberty have continued their win streak, most recently in Georgia where legislation protecting religious liberty was vetoed by their Republican governor. Two patterns can be observed from this trend.
First, in each of the states – Indiana, Arkansas, Texas, and Georgia – conservatives were not defeated by Democrats, but by Republicans, demonstrating once again that Republican and conservative are far from synonyms.
Second, when Texas fails to lead for conservative values at home, it leads to the failure of conservative values across the nation. With the expectation that Texas will lead the fight for conservatism, voters here in the Lone Star State have an even greater responsibility in choosing our leaders.
For better or worse, the nation looks to Texas for pioneering leadership on conservative issues. Boasting more electoral votes than any other state except California and a strong Attorney General unafraid to fight back against the federal government, Texas serves as the anchor for the national Republican Party.
A strong and vibrant economy coupled with a strong culture of rugged individualism places Texas in a prime position to take up that mantle of leadership and wade into the thickest of fights. Some of our leaders have used their position to become leaders for conservative reforms. For example, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has been a happy warrior taking the fight to Washington’s liberal establishment. Unfortunately, many state-level politicians have been cowards at best and complicit in left-wing policies at worst.
Strong, limited-government legislation has been proposed in Texas, but is defeated more often than it prevails. As much as the Texas legislature should be leading the fight, it more often refuses to even enter the arena. Paycheck protection aimed at ending government-union collusion? It passed in Wisconsin, but was killed by the Texas House. School choice designed to empower parents? Despite taking hold in some capacity across twenty-nine of fifty states, it’s been repeatedly defeated in Texas. Gun rights? It took Texas until 2016 to catch up with the vast majority of the nation and even then, it still lags behind.
Though defeated last session, Krause has announced that he intends to offer his legislation again and similarly Hammond has already promised his opposition, asserting that religious liberty is toxic to business. Gov. Greg Abbott disagreed and seemed to hint his position was in line with Krause.
“To imply that religious liberty cannot be protected without hurting a business’ bottom line is inherently false and goes against the principles our country was founded on,” wrote John Wittman, Gov. Abbott’s press secretary. “Gov. Abbott has always sought to protect and expand religious liberty and economic freedom in Texas, and he looks forward to continuing that work in the 85th legislative session.”
If Texans are serious about religious liberty they should begin reminding their lawmakers that Texas must lead. But doing so requires legislators who are sincere about fulfilling their promises of promoting the interests of all Texans, not the liberal lobby who helps fund their re-election campaigns.