Churches across San Antonio are expressing outrage over a proposed anti-discrimination law that would protect LGBT workers but would not provide a religious exemption and would effectively prohibit anyone who opposes homosexuality from holding public office or getting a city contract.
The proposed change would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the city’s discrimination ordinance. It would protect gays, lesbians, transgender, and veterans – a move that had critics accusing the council of playing politics with the military.
“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,” the ordinance reads.
Critics argue that the ordinance could ban Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin from serving on the city council.
They also believe the ordinance would also ban the city from doing business with anyone who fails to espouse politically correct views and businesses run by people of faith would be subject to criminal penalties if they refused to provide services that conflict with their religious beliefs related to homosexuality.
“It’s extremely dangerous,” said Ken Klukowski, of the Family Research Council. “This is a flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitution and the San Antonio City Council looks like a bunch of anti-Christian activists.”
Klukowski said if the council approves the ordinance they would be guilty of “viewpoint discrimination.”
“If it’s passed, any person who has either expressed any belief in favor of traditional marriage or in terms of Judeo-Christian morality regarding sexuality in general, verbally or in writing, could be barred from participating in public life on that city council,” he told Fox News.
Councilman Diego Bernal and Mayor Julian Castro are pushing for the proposed changes.
“To say that you agree with this ordinance,” Castro told the San Antonio Express-News, “is to say that you do not believe that someone who is gay or lesbian ought to be discriminated against in the same way that an African American or a Hispanic or a woman shouldn’t be discriminated against.”
Bernal did not return telephone calls seeking comment. But he told the Express-News that he did not play politics by including veterans in the ordinance.
“No one wants to vote against veterans — I get that,” he told the newspaper. “I didn’t include veterans to be some sort of shoehorn or Trojan horse for another group.”
Dozens of churches across the city have organized to oppose the proposed legislation, warning that it creates a religious test for involvement in city government as well as lucrative contracts and subcontracts.
“If it passes and you attend a church that opposes gay marriage, you could be disqualified from getting a city job,” said Steve Branson, the pastor of San Antonio’s Village Parkway Baptist Church. “I would be disqualified from running for office. My church members couldn’t run for office if they held the same views I do.”
Branson told Fox News he’s never been involved in political matters – but he said the threat to religious liberty was too great for him to remain silent.
“This got my attention,” he said. “It affects freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”
The pastor said it appears to be nothing less than a crackdown on people who oppose homosexuality.
“I’m certain that’s it,” he said. “In the long run, we know this is an attack against people who think that homosexuality is wrong.”
Klukowski is hoping the city’s attorneys will pull the plug on the proposed ordinance. Regardless, he said the city council has sent a chilling message to the religious community.
“This is a shameful form of anti-clergy bias,” he told Fox News. “It’s an appalling form of government discrimination against people of traditional religious faith in this country.”
“Such bigots, for bigots is what they are, have no qualms about using such power as they have to bully anyone who holds views rooted in tradition or religion,” the editorial stated. “Such discrimination is proposed under the cloak of a ‘non-discrimination’ ordinance. George Orwell is alive and hiding in Texas.”
But not all council members are supportive of the changes.
Councilwoman Ivy Taylor told television station KENS she had concerns about the impact the new rules might have on businesses that contract with the city.
I do not believe that we can legislate moral or religious convictions and am sensitive to that perspective,” she told the television station. “I am meeting with groups and citizens on both sides of the issue and working with city staff to make sure I understand the proposal before making a decision on how to vote. I welcome input from constituents.”
The council will begin debating the issue on Aug. 2.