San Antonio’s City Council, with Mayor Julian Castro at the helm, is working on ordinance changes aimed at punishing those who speak out against homosexuality.
The online religious community is warning about a proposed ordinance to be taken up by the San Antonio City Council when it returns from its summer break next week. Although billed as simple “housekeeping efforts to combine all of its anti-discrimination rules and ordinances into one”, the consolidated ordinance adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the discrimination ordinances in the city code. It also covers individuals, businesses, religious organizations and places of public accommodation.
The proposed ordinance reads:
“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.”
“Bias” is not defined. I would imagine it could be as broad as someone might want it to be.
Of most concern to the religious community, the proposed ordinance provides no exemptions for religious beliefs relating to homosexuality. According to opponents, it violates First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of association, as well as rights granted by the Texas Religious Freedom Act, the Texas Constitution, and the US Constitution, particularly 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.”
Pastor Charles Flowers of San Antonio’s Faith Outreach International, a church that includes in its Statement of Faith that “We believe the Bible in its entirety to be the inspired Word of God and the infallible rule of faith and conduct”, is leading the fight against the proposed change. Flowers told OneNewsNow that the Arizona-based legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom has taken a look at the ordinance and was shocked by its implications:
“They said they’ve never seen this kind of language in any other ordinance in any other city that they’ve dealt with,” the pastor shares. “It is unprecedentedly wrong – and of course the citizens of San Antonio must stop it.”
I personally spoke with Pastor Flowers and asked why he risked stepping up on this particular issue, when doing so these days has the potential to bring such backlash.
“We are commanded by God in Matthew 5:13-16 to be salt and light. Light is goodness and salt is a preservative. We want to preserve our values and it is our responsibility to do so. We cannot pick and choose issues or areas” in order to avoid controversy, he told me.
Flowers’ concerns are shared by many other pastors. According to Joe Conger of KHOU in Houston, more than a dozen church leaders met recently 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.”
We have all seen firsthand the response to the late term anti-abortion bill that recently passed in Texas, and was signed by Governor Perry. I would expect similar antics when the proposed ordinance comes up for discussion in August.
Faith Outreach’s website provides excellent resources for those who are interested in expressing their opposition to the proposed change, including do’s and don’ts for Pastors and Leaders, and a White Sheet summary in pdf form.
The City Council’s agenda is prepared on a weekly basis and, according to a spokesperson I talked with at the City Manager’s office, no date for discussion on the proposed ordinance has yet been set. The agenda for August 1 can be found here.
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