Late in the special session, Capitol bureaucrats maneuvered to silence the free speech of Texas pastors by claiming the group’s request violated administrative rules. However, a review of emails and application documents appear to show viewpoint discrimination.
Records obtained by Texas Scorecard show that not only was the Texas Pastor Council’s request the only application denied this year, but that Capitol bureaucrats worked to enable Capitol displays by left-wing groups.
Last month, conservative activist Nubia Devine, the wife of conservative Texas Supreme Court Justice John Devine, applied for an event permit sponsored by State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R–Deer Park).
According to documents provided by Cain’s office, Devine had requested permission to install a pro-privacy exhibit with “signs on easels with phrases ‘Pass Them All.’ ‘Daughters over Dollars,’ and ‘Privacy over Predators.’”
The request was immediately scrutinized by Capitol bureaucrats.
“I would also like to see samples of the signs you wish to display. I think it’s possible that we could work together on a display that could work within our rules,” wrote Robert Davis, the Capitol Events and Exhibits Coordinator. “But anything too overtly political or crossing over the line too far into lobbying the passage of legislation is not permitted under Texas Administrative Code… Please send any scans or images of the signage that you wish to display.”
Devine and members of Cain’s staff complied with Davis’ request for more information, but the efforts were all for naught.
“The State Preservation Board cannot approve the reservation of the South Central Gallery for an exhibit display at this time,” wrote Davis in reply.
Such an exchange and process was never followed with Planned Parenthood who requested the right to a display for “Planned Parenthood Lobby Day.” Indeed, the organization was approved by Davis despite providing zero information about what their display would concern or entail.
Likewise, Davis never asked for any such material from Texas Impact, a pro-LGBT organization, who successfully obtained approval from the Capitol Preservation Board to erect a display they admitted in emails to the Preservation Board was “anti-bathroom bill.”
Much like Devine’s application on behalf of the Texas Pastors Council, an individual with Texas Impact requested the organization be allowed a Capitol display consisting of “posters of quotes from religious/faith leaders about unity and tolerance (anti-bathroom bill).” But despite being “overtly political,” the Texas Impact application was approved and the “anti-bathroom bill” display was erected inside the Texas Capitol.
Meanwhile, Davis also approved multiple requests from State Sen. Brandon Creighton’s (R–Conroe) office for an adoption advocacy group to hold displays that appear to outright support specific legislation on adoptee rights.
Such a violation of the rule isn’t something most Texans find offensive. But it’s that inconsistency—and outright hypocrisy in the case of Texas Impact—that further illustrates the need for the Capitol Preservation Board’s policies and perhaps personnel to be reformed. And as it stands, the Capitol Preservation Board could be in hot water for violating the free speech rights of Devine and the Texas Pastors Council.
“Capitol bureaucrats may want to dress their discrimination up as just an effort to follow administrative rules,” said Tony McDonald, general counsel for Empower Texans. “But their inconsistent treatment of conservative and left-wing groups shows they were engaged in viewpoint discrimination, which is unconstitutional.”
Reached for comment this morning, Cain, who is a practicing attorney, said he is considering filing suit.
“We are taking a serious look at taking legal action on what appears to be blatant discrimination. This is unacceptable,” said Cain.
Conservative Texans have made it clear, in recent sessions and elections, that they sick and tired of being treated like second-class citizens by their own government in a state they dominate politically. Governments exist to protect the rights of all citizens, not to decide who is allowed to speak and who is not, depending on what they have to say. It adds insult to injury when far-left views are given a forum in the state capitol while pastors are silenced.