With religious liberty under near constant assault in Houston, Plano, and other Texas cities legislation was needed to protect the rights of business owners. Originally filed by State Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas), HJR 55 would do exactly that. If passed the bill would amend the Constitution to prohibit the government from burdening “a person’s free exercise of religion” unless the burden is “necessary to further a compelling governmental interest” and “the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.”
State Sen. Donna Campbell filed a similar measure, SJR 10, in the Texas Senate. After vocally advocating for the legislation for months, Villalba abruptly abandoned it just this week.
The legislation received favorable reviews from conservatives and was part of a chest thumping exercise by Villalba. Back in December one would have to look rather hard to find a stronger advocate for the issue than Villalba:
“We must stand athwart those who seek to eliminate every vestige of our religious heritage from the public square. Tomorrow, we fight back. I look forward to working with Matt Krause and the Liberty Institute to ensure that our Citizenry and our children will not face infringement on their religious freedoms.”
Villalba continued to support the bill in the Texas House, and the legislation was even referred to the State Affairs Committee and a hearing was imminent. That was until the Texas Association of Business came out against the measure, saying it would “claim their religious beliefs give them the right to ignore laws and regulations.” TAB further opposes the measure because it would be unfriendly to the “LGBT business community.”
There seem to be no reservations on how trampling on religious liberty might be equally “unfriendly” to religious business owners.
Their opposition led Villalba to withdraw his support this week. Though Villalba said TAB is not typically involved in cultural issues, but if they are against this measure, he “must listen.” Such an assessment is wrong. The only ones that Villalba “must listen” to are the people who he represents back in his district, not the special interests in Austin.
Though some may seek to retreat from their duties as a representative, some are still standing with their citizens. State Sen. Donna Campbell confirmed through a spokesman that she still supports her bill, and stepping up in the Texas House is State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth). He filed HJR 125, legislation nearly identical to the bill Villalba abandoned.
State Rep. Krause and State Sen. Campbell should be commended for continuing to stand with their constituents rather than supplicating to special interests. The issue should serve to prove that some lawmakers need to be reminded that it is not us who serve them, but they who serve us.