San Antonio City Council: Messing with Inalienable Rights of Christians, Americans

Last week the city council in San Antonio expanded its "non-discrimination" ordinance to include categories for "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." Though trumpeted as a vote for fairness, the law has the effect of blacklisting bible-believing Christians and anyone else who would dare affirm traditional marriage.

Laws creating protections for sexual activity and expression are not novel. Cities and states around the country have enacted legislation curbing government entities from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in their hiring practices. But San Antonio has taken the next step with a significantly broader measure. There, anyone who wants to work for, with, or in the city falls within the proscription.

And the ban goes beyond employment, punishing speech - and even beliefs - about homosexual or transgendered behavior. The law precludes "bias, by word or deed, against any person, group of persons, or organization on the basis of…sexual orientation, gender identity…."

The implications of this law are staggering.

If a citizen merely speaks in favor of traditional marriage, she is automatically disqualified from seeking office or receiving business in San Antonio. Voicing agreement with the portion of Texas State Constitution that defines marriage as between one man and one woman would trigger the same result. Even if she keeps quiet about her beliefs, but demonstrates "bias" in other ways, like attending an evangelical church that holds to traditional views on homosexuality and marriage, she faces ineligibility.

Nor could she escape the reach of the law by focusing on the private sector. She would still be required to make benefits available to same-sex partners, hire employees who want to cross-dress, and supply bathrooms accessible to either sex at all times.

Under the irony-filled moniker of "equality," San Antonio is treating Christians like second-class citizens, not just forcing them to the back of the bus, but making them get off. The law systematically excludes Christians with biblically informed views from having any meaningful role in the city.

As Texas attorney general Greg Abbott perceives, "The obvious problem with this provision is that it allows government to impose thought and speech control over any city official or board or commission member who may hold deep religious beliefs that are counter to the ordinance."

Passing by 8-3 vote, the law has already taken effect. Yet, in the spirit of "Remember[ing] the Alamo," many San Antonians are unwilling to cede their religious liberties without a fight.

Some have indicated an interest in challenging the law in court and they should find that forum friendly to their cause. It is plainly unconstitutional for any government, including the city council of San Antonio, to infringe upon freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, or freedom of conscience, in such a direct and egregious manner.

Leading up the American Revolution, colonists were concerned about political offices being reserved for members of the Church of England. Hence, in Art 6 of the U.S. Constitution, the drafters specifically addressed these worries and barred a "religious test" for public office. San Antonio is trying to resurrect this same illegitimate notion - imposing a "religious test" of its own - by compelling residents to abandon their religious beliefs to participate in public life.

Thankfully, our religious freedoms are not dependent on the whims of public officials. As articulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, these rights are inalienable, that is, God-given.

And what God has giveth, San Antonio cannot taketh away.

Nate Kellum is chief counsel for the Center for Religious Expression a non-profit organization in Memphis, TN dedicated entirely to the protection of religious speech.

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