U.S. city looks to penalize Bible believers
Critics charge ‘anti-bias’ requirement punishes people with moral convictions
Think it’s hot in Texas these days? Just wait a few weeks, until the San Antonio City Council ends its summer hiatus and resumes work on a proposed change to its nondiscrimination ordinances that apparently will discriminate against all who take the Bible at its word and follow it.
Opponents of the plan, which would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the nondiscrimination ordinances, charge it is a violation of constitutional Article VI, paragraph 3, which states, “[N]o religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
The opponents explain that the ordinance would bar anyone from office who has “demonstrated a bias” against someone based on categories that include “sexual orientation.”
The proposal, however, does not define “bias,” which, according to local church leaders, could mean someone who declares homosexual behavior is sinful.
The new ordinance would state: “No person shall be appointed to a position if the city council finds that such person has, prior to such proposed appointment, engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age, or disability.”
Anyone in office who demonstrates a bias would be considered guilty of “malfeasance” and removed from office.
Church leaders who oppose the proposed change argue it violates First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of association. It also violates, they say, the Texas Religious Freedom Act and the Texas Constitution.
Pastor Charles Flowers of Faith Outreach International, who has been alerting city residents about the issue, told OneNewsNow that the reference to “bias” could mean anything.
“The ordinance … says that if you have at any point demonstrate a bias – without defining what a bias is or who will determine whether or not one has been exercised – that you cannot get a city contract,” Flowers said. “Neither can any of your subcontractors [who have demonstrated a bias] sign on to the contract.”
He called the measure “unprecedentedly wrong” and said “the citizens of San Antonio must stop it.”
Many pastors are concerned, reported KHOU-TV’s Joe Conger in Houston.
“Ever have a Paula Deen moment – make an off-color joke or hold a religious belief?” Conger said. “[Pastor Steve] Branson [of Village Parkway Baptist Church] says keep it to yourself if you’re involved with San Antonio city government. Proposed changes to the anti-discrimination ordinance could get you fired.”
“If you voice any opinion, no matter how many years back it’s been, it can be used against you,” Branson told the station. “City employees are going to be greatly affected by this.”
The KHOU report said more than a dozen church leaders met to discuss the looming issue.
An analysis released by pastors said the “ordinance violates Texas and federal Constitutions by creating a religious test for involvement in city government.”
The church leaders said it allows the city council “to prohibit those that speak their religious beliefs regarding homosexuality from serving on city boards.”
“For example, if a person publicly expresses their religious belief that homosexual behavior is a sin – even if this expression is at a church service – that person could be frozen out of involvement with city government.”
The analysis also contends businesses “run by people of faith will be subject to criminal penalties if they refuse to provide services that conflict with their religious beliefs relating to homosexuality.”
The council, which declined to advance the plan when it first was discussed, is scheduled to resume talks on the controversy in August.