Texans approve broad protection of religious services

Joe Bukuras   By Joe Bukuras for CNA

The Texas capitol. / Ricardo Garza/Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, Nov 4, 2021 / 16:24 pm (CNA).

Texans voted on Tuesday to prohibit the Lone Star State from taking any action that would prohibit or limit religious services.

SJR 27, otherwise known as Proposition 3, is an amendment to the state’s constitution that bars “the State of Texas or a political subdivision from enacting, adopting, or issuing a statute, order, proclamation, decision, or rule that prohibits or limits religious services.”

Proposition 3 was one of the eight amendments proposed to Texas voters in their Nov. 2 Constitutional Amendment Election.

The proposition also says that the amendment “would apply to religious services, including those conducted in churches, congregations, and places of worship, in the state by a religious organization established to support and serve the propagation of a sincerely held religious belief.”

Opponents of the proposition said it was overly broad and warned that it would hamstring public officials during natural disasters and other emergencies.

Some opponents also argued that the amendment was unnecessary. In June, the state passed legislation that prohibits orders on closing places of worship. That law, H.B. 1239, bars government agencies or public officials from issuing orders that close “or has the effect of closing” places of worship in Texas.

According to still-unofficial results, Proposition 3 garnered about 63% of the vote, while about 38% of voters cast their ballots against the measure. The vote is widely seen as a response to the closing of churches and religious services during the COVID-19 pandemic by public officials.

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) tweeted their support for the amendment on Wednesday.

They wrote: “Yesterday, TX voters took to the polls. 2 constitutional amendments to the TX Constitution that the TCCB supported passed. Props. 3 and 6, respectively, protect #religiousliberty and guarantee access to #essentialcaregivers at nursing homes and assisted care facilities.”

Proposition 6, also known as SJR 19, says that “residents of certain facilities have the right to designate an essential caregiver with whom the facility may not prohibit in-person visitation.”

The amendment, which received nearly 90% of the vote, applies to nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, intermediate care facilities for individuals with an intellectual disability, residences providing home and community-based services, or state-supported living centers.

The measure authorizes the state legislature to provide guidelines for these facilities to follow in establishing essential caregiver visitation policies and procedures.

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