Exclusive: Texas Governor Signs Pastor Protection Bill Into Law
Austin, TX, June 11, 2015 – Today, pastors from across the state watched Governor Greg Abbott sign the Pastor Protection Bill, SB 2065, into state law, a bill that received bipartisan support in the Texas House and Senate. SB 2065 protects Texas pastors, churches, and religious organizations from being forced to perform a marriage that violates their religious beliefs and from being forced to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage if the action would cause the organization or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief.
Despite strong opposition from some Democrats and from LGBT advocacy groups throughout the legislative process, including the ACLU, Equality Texas, and Texas Freedom Network, the bill passed with overwhelming majorities in the Texas House and Senate without any of the amendments aimed at watering-down the bill. By passing with a vote of two-thirds in both chambers, the bill takes effect immediately.
Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values Action, made the following statement:
“Today we honor pastors and clergy who are guided by their sincerely held religious beliefs and assure them that Texas stands firm on religious freedom without government interference. The testimonies from pastors and religious leaders who sacrificed their time and effort to share their stories are powerful reminders that we must continue to defend our First Freedoms. We are especially grateful for Sen. Craig Estes and Rep. Scott Sanford for their diligence and hard work on this legislation, and the leadership of Gov. Abbott for his support and for signing this bill into law.”
Pastor Robert “Bob” Jones, President-Elect of the Texas Black Clergy Network, stated:
“I am in awe of the coordinated efforts of the Texas Pastors Council, Texas Values Action, clergy throughout this state, our elected representatives, and of course our Governor, Greg Abbott for coming together to state clearly and emphatically that in Texas “we take our freedoms, liberties, and our God and his Word very seriously.” Thanks be to God that we live in such a state.”
Pastor Hernan Castano, one of the of “Houston 5” pastors, stated:
“As the persecution and attacks against freedom of religion in America continue to seek the destruction of truth while intimidating the proclaimers of Faith and moral values, the signing into law of SB2065 by our governor gives us all the pastors the peace and empowerment to continue upholding faith and righteousness with the freedom of speech and religion being protected.”
Representative Scott Sanford, House author of the Pastor Protection Bill stated:
“Pastors and churches should not have to live in fear that the government will force them to perform marriages that violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. Five pastors in Houston were recently subpoenaed by the mayor for discussions that included biblical interpretations related to marriage on church property. Many faith leaders are now concerned about the threat of continuing government intrusion and infringement on these issues. SB 2065 makes it clear that Texas should remain a place where government respects the diversity of religious beliefs on these matters of faith and marriage. Thank you to Governor Abbott for signing SB 2065.”
Pastors from all over the state, representing millions of Texans, attended multiple hearings throughout the session supporting the bill and helped lead in the effort to pass the bill. The leadership of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Republican Caucus Chairman Tan Parker, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and the public support by Gov. Greg Abbott for SB 2065, were also key to the passage of this law. Numerous groups also contributed to the passing of SB 2065: Texas Values Action, Concerned Women for America, Texas Pastor Council, Texas Catholic Conference, Baptist General Convention of Texas, Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, Texas Eagle Forum, Liberty Institute, Conservative Republicans of Texas, Coalition of African American Pastors, Citizenlink (a Focus on the Family partner) and numerous churches.