Lawmakers in the Texas Capitol have given their approval to Senate Bill 581 by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), legislation to outlaw homeowners associations from enforcing stringent regulations on religious displays.
In particular, the bill says a property owners association “may not enforce or adopt a provision that … prohibits a property owner or resident from displaying or affixing on the owner’s or resident’s property or dwelling one or more religious items, the display of which was motivated by the owner’s or resident’s sincere religious belief.”
However, some displays would be prohibited if they are on HOA property, block right-of-way areas, are attached to a “traffic control device,” or contain obscenity.
Supporters of the bill say it would further protect homeowners’ civil and religious liberties, ensuring religious freedom of expression isn’t infringed on, while opponents have criticized the move as a potential infringement of property rights.
After its unanimous passage in the Senate last month, Bettencourt summarized the bill, saying, “The bottom line is simply that if a homeowner wants to display a nativity scene, put a cross or menorah on their door, or exercise their religious freedom, whatever their religion might be, a homeowners association should not have the right to prevent that.”
The Republican Party of Texas has designated SB 581 as part of its religious liberty legislative priority.
Having passed both chambers, with no amendments, the bill will now be sent to Gov. Greg Abbott.