Attorney General Ken Paxton today participated in the bill signing for Senate Bill 2065, commonly referred to as the Pastor Protection Bill. The law shields pastors and churches from lawsuits regarding their refusal to perform or host a marriage ceremony that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs. The bill passed thanks to the heroic efforts of Senator Craig Estes and Representative Scott Sanford, himself a pastor. Attorney General Paxton issued the following statement:
“With today’s signing of SB 2065, Texas took a small but important step to further protect the religious freedom of clergy in the face of increasing hostility toward people of faith in all walks of life. No Pastor, Priest, Rabbi or other religious leader should be forced to perform or recognize a marriage that contradicts his or her sincere religious belief.
“I applaud Senator Craig Estes and Representative Scott Sanford for their steadfast determination to see this bill passed and ultimately signed into law. It’s a victory for them, the strong people of faith who mobilized for its passage and for the clergy of Texas who will be protected.
“But to be clear, it’s not enough. We now have much more work to do to ensure that all Texans can practice their faith and, among other things, recognize traditional marriage without being punished, harassed or discriminated against for their beliefs.
“What about the wedding photographer, the event planner, the caterer, the bed and breakfast owner, cake baker or any other Texas small business owner who is threatened or sued for carrying out their work according to their faith? What about the religiously-affiliated adoption agency that believes it should only place a child in a home with traditional marriage? What about the private school that teaches traditional marriage but is told it is an ‘issue’? Will that school lose its 501c3 tax-exempt status, as was suggested by the U.S. Solicitor General while arguing against traditional marriage in the Supreme Court?
“As a likely ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage draws near, we remain prayerful and hopeful that the Justices will follow their own precedent by deferring to Texas and her citizens who, by a 76 percent vote, defined marriage as one man and one woman.
“Whatever the Court decides, the people of Texas and its leadership must not sit idly by in the face of hostility and harassment at the hands of a small but loud chorus of activists and the few corporate cronies cowed by them who denounce Texans simply for standing in defense of traditional marriage.
“Our very first freedom is religious freedom. It is the essence of who we are as Americans and is the foundation of the God-given liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights. It is our responsibility to stand up and protect people of faith from hate and intolerance, and we should take whatever steps necessary to make clear we will defend people of faith and their sincerely-held belief in traditional marriage.”