An attorney suggests the San Antonio City Council still has work to do to avoid a lawsuit over a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance that will very likely silence people of faith.
As proposed, the ordinance would bar anyone from office if they have ever discriminated against or taken a stance against homosexuals, lesbians, or the transgendered. In addition, it would bar any business or subcontractors from doing business with the city on the same basis. (See earlier story)
The San Antonio Express-News reported over the weekend that a prominent local pastor who initially voiced opposition to the proposal – Pastor John Hagee of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church – has since agreed to a revision and now supports the proposed ordinance. Several other local church leaders, says that report, still oppose the ordinance despite the latest revision.
In an interview with OneNewsNow, attorney Justin Butterfield of Texas-based Liberty Institute disputes reports alleging Hagee’s change of heart, adding that there is still no accommodation for people of faith. He says it violates freedom of speech and religion as well as the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“It's as though they believe that people only had First Amendment protections while they were at church and they said, Okay, while you're at church you can have First Amendment protections, but as soon as you leave the church you're no longer protected by the First Amendment – and that's just not what the law says,” Butterfield remarks.
The attorney explains that people retain their constitutional rights regardless where they are. “And the government can't discriminate against people on the basis of their religious beliefs,” he emphasizes. “[The government] still can't suppress people's freedom of speech just because they're in public and [because] they're not in the privacy of their homes or in their individual churches.”
In a statement Monday night, Hagee said he does not support the changes to the proposed ordinance. While he deemed deletion of the offensive portions a “significant victory” for people of faith who oppose the ordinance, he added: “I understand other concerns remain, and I encourage those who share these concerns to continue their efforts to ensure that this ordinance will in no way discriminate against people of faith.”
The city council is tentatively scheduled to vote on the proposal September 5 and could face a lawsuit if changes aren’t made to make the ordinance constitutional.