The San Antonio City Council, Mayor Castro, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender) activists are now getting desperate in their effort to pass their so called “non-discrimination” ordinance – an ordinance that is better described as a direct attack on Christians and people of faith in San Antonio. With over 20,000 messages to the San Antonio City Council being sent by concerned Texans and local opposition in San Antonio among Churches and local citizens continuing to build, the more the ordinance and its true intentions are exposed, the more citizens are willing to stand up for their rights.
The San Antonio City Council has already been forced to recognize the blatant religious discrimination of this proposed ordinance and has attempted to change the ordinance and introduce new drafts to push back and mislead the growing opposition to the ordinance. But simply removing one discriminatory and unconstitutional section (Section 2-552(b) from previous draft) does not change the fact that there are still serious religious freedom, constitutional, and practical problems with the ordinance. In fact, the new draft still includes a section (2-252(b) in new draft) that attacks board members, appointed officials, and others that oppose (“demonstrated bias, by word or deed…”) homosexual conduct by requiring that action be taken to “remove the offending person from office.”
Here are 5 major problems that still remain in the ordinance:
1. Ban on speech supporting traditional marriage and sexuality by board members and other appointed officials. (Sec. 2-252(b))
As mentioned above, the ordinance still includes a section that tramples on the religious freedom and free speech rights of city government officials that publicly oppose (“demonstrated bias, by word or deed…”) homosexual, bisexual, or transgender behavior by requiring that action be taken to “remove the offending person from office.” This provision could prevent any government appointee from saying such things as he/she believes homosexual behavior is immoral, quote Scripture and point out that the Bible calls those who engage in homosexual behavior to repent, in the same manner as it calls those who engage in any kind of sexual immorality to repent, or share the biblical view of marriage and sexuality.
2. Men in the women’s restrooms and changing facilities. (Sec. 2-592)
As we highlighted in an earlier post, the proposed ordinance essentially contains protection for transgender bathrooms. The ordinance makes it illegal to deny “facilities” because of a person’s “gender identity.” No exemption is given for places in which people are customarily in various states of undress, such as a locker rooms or bathroom. In essence, the ordinance would make it a crime for a business to protect their women and children from a man desiring to use the womens’ bathrooms and locker rooms because he believes he is a woman. The dangers of this policy for women and children are clear and, as expressed by local residents in recent testimony, include increased opportunities for sexual predators to gain easier access to their targets. The City Council should be focused on protecting women and children, not placing them at risk.
3. Does not provide a free-exercise of religion exemption for places of public accommodation and will discriminate against (Christian) businesses that want to operate according to their religious faith. (Sec. 2-592)
The ordinance would require every place of public accommodation to provide all of the “advantages, facilities or services offered to the general public.” The ordinance expressly “shall include every business within the city, whether wholesale or retail, which is open to the general public and offers, for compensation, any product, service or facility” – a very broad definition that will likely include a large amount of San Antonio businesses.
Just a few recent documented examples of this type of language being used to target people of faith include: a photographer refusing to provide services at a same-sex commitment ceremony who is being sued for discrimination pursuant to a public accommodations law (New Mexico), a Christian baker refusing to provide a wedding cake to a same-sex “wedding” who is being sued for discrimination (Colorado), a Christian florist refusing to provide flowers to a same-sex “wedding” for religious reasons who is being prosecuted by the state and sued by the same-sex couple (Washington), a printing company owned by Christians who declined to print t-shirts for a “gay-pride” festival which is being sued for discrimination (Kentucky). Clearly, this will have a tremendous negative impact on the ability of San Antonio’s business to operate according to their beliefs.
4. Bans (Christian) businesses that refuse to add “Sexual Orientation” and “Gender Identity” to their companies’ nondiscrimination protections from working with the city. (Section 7)
Everyone that contracts with the city must comply with this new “non-discrimination” policy. So any person who operates their business pursuant to their conscience or religious beliefs, if in conflict with this ordinance, will be barred from doing business with the city. This means that Christian-run businesses that comply with their religious beliefs will be barred from entering into any contracts with the city. Effectively, the ordinance will use government power to force private businesses to share the same beliefs as the city.
5. Does not give Churches and other religious organizations clear protection in their hiring practices. (Sec. 2-550(b))
While the ordinance does include a weak exemption for churches and other religious organizations related to hiring, it is only limited for employment “to members of the same religion.” This does not address the situation, for example, faced by a Baptist or Catholic school that receives an application from a gender-confused man who says he is Baptist or Catholic. The question then becomes – who gets to say what religion the applicant is? The ordinance does not say. There are some denominations that self-identify as Christian and say that those engaging in homosexual behavior can be a member in good standing. This ordinance sets the stage for government being empowered to define and dictate to religious organizations what does and does not quality as their “religion.” This is extremely dangerous. Further, this section does not give any assurances of protection to any other part of religious organization’s operations outside of hiring.
More resources on San Antonio’s Anti-Religious Freedom Ordinance: