Texas Has Its Own Religious Freedom Law and It’s Similar to Indiana’s

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The nation’s not so delicate dance between protecting religious liberty and preventing discrimination is back in the headlines. Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been met with protests, threatened boycotts and a firestorm of criticism. But 20 states already have similar laws on the books — including Texas. But, here’s the difference:

The Texas Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, or RFRA, prohibits government from infringing on religion. The law allows individuals to challenge laws that “substantially” burden their practice of religion. But, the law also includes provisions to ensure that the law can’t be misused to disregard civil rights protections. Indiana’s currently law is more broad and includes no such protections.

“Texas showed the nation how to carefully balance the need to protect religious liberties with the right of every individual to work hard and provide for their families,” says Daniel Williams, legislative specialist with Equality Texas. “If Indiana had passed Texas’ law, they wouldn’t be experiencing this backlash.”

But, other experts aren’t so sure.

“Texas did their law 15 years ago when public opinion supported that,” says Cal Jillson, a professor in the Political Science department at Southern Methodist University, “and it [public opinion] no longer does. If Texas passed its law today, it would experience that blowback.”

In fact, Texas’ law has gone largely unnoticed—until now.

State Rep. Matt Krauss (R- Ft. Worth) wants to strengthen the law and has proposed a religious freedom amendment to the Texas Constitution. Krauss insists that the measure is not intended to sanction discrimination.

“This is not a knee jerk reaction,” said Krauss today by phone from Austin. “This is just good public policy. This law has served Texas well for over a decade and I believe it’s important enough to elevate it from statutory to constitutional protection.” Krauss also adds that he has not been deterred by the pushback occurring now in Indiana.

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Source: DFW CBS | Robbie Owens

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