Texas Legislature Finishes Session with Religious Freedom and Life Protections

Yesterday, Texas legislators finished up the 2021 session strong with protections for religious freedom and the sanctity of human life.  Just last week, the legislature passed the Freedom to Worship Act (HB 1239) by Rep. Scott Sanford and Sen. Angela Paxton which makes it clear that government agencies and local officials cannot abuse their power and shut down places of worship.  The week before, Gov. Abbott signed the Texas Heartbeat Act (SB 8) by Sen. Bryan Hughes and Rep. Shelby Slawson that prohibits abortions after the detection of a preborn child’s heartbeat.

“Religious Liberty and the protection of life were ‘essential’ themes this legislative session, with the passage for the Freedom to Worship Act and the Texas Heartbeat Act.  Two things are now clear in Texas law: you can’t stop a church from meeting, and you can’t stop a baby’s heartbeat from beating. We thank many elected officials for their leadership, but know there is still important work to complete in an upcoming special session,” said Jonathan Saenz, president and attorney for Texas Values.

HB 1239 protects Texans’ freedom to worship.  Religious freedom is a right and churches are essential for the spiritual, physical, and mental well-being of individuals and communities.  Gov. Abbott has previously stated his support for religious freedom protection legislation and is expected to sign HB 1239 into law.

SB 8, the Texas Heartbeat Act, is different than heartbeat laws passed in other states, as it creates civil liability for a person who performs, aids, or abets in an abortion after a heartbeat is detected and empowers citizens to file civil actions to enforce it.  This bill is designed to withstand the usual claims of constitutional violation because the state is not involved in enforcing the measure’s provisions.  That is why the Biden Administration has called SB 8 “the most restrictive measure yet in the nation.

Texas Values supported other important religious freedom and life legislation currently headed to the governor’s desk including: HB 525 by Rep. Matt Shaheen to protect and designate religious organizations as “essential” in addition to churches, SJR 27, a constitutional amendment proposal by Sen. Kelly Hancock and Rep. Jeff Leach to protect places of worship and religious activities from government restrictions, and HB 1280, a “trigger law” by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione and Sen. Angela Paxton to end abortion as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

Unfortunately, other common sense legislation to ban gender modification surgeries on children and protect fairness in women’s sports failed to pass the House even though it passed the Senate. 

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