On Monday, the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee heard testimony that would protect the religious freedom of clergy, pastors, and churches concerning marriages. If passed, Senate bill 2065 by State Sen. Craig Estes would preclude government intervention and prohibit any faith leader from being forced to officiate a marriage or related ceremony that would violate a sincerely held religious belief.
Scores of faith leaders from across the state came to the hearing, expressing their support for the legislation.
“As a minister of God’s word, I cannot perform a marriage that violates my religious beliefs. I beseech you, as our elected officials, to protect those rights. I strongly support SB 2065 and I urge you to do the same,” said Dr. Jack Graham, Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church.
Notably, a high number of minority faith leaders testified in support as well:
“The Texas Black Clergy Network would be profoundly disappointed, hurt, and frankly bewildered if this government body did not protect the very institution that spoke defiantly, unashamedly, and quite loudly I might add, against the practice of slavery. That is the Christian Church. Dare we silence these pulpits now? God forbid. We need their scriptural moral call now as we have needed it from the inception of our nation. If not on a national, at least we’ll hold forth in the great state of Texas,” said Rev. Bob Jones, Texas Black Clergy Network
“As an immigrant that came to this nation, it troubles me greatly that the religious freedom that my parents sought is being eroded every day. When my sermons were subpoenaed by the government, I was shocked. Now I fear that my ability to perform marriages is threatened like never before. The protections guaranteed by SB 2065 are needed today,” said Pastor Hernan Castano, Iglesia Rios de Aceite of Houston, Texas in his testimony.
The bill was left pending in the State Affairs Committee by State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Brazoria). The House companion, HB 3567 by State Rep. Scott Sanford (R-Plano) a pastor, received bipartisan support and passed out of committee last week.