Written by Don Byrd

Texas’ Senate State Affairs Committee has advanced Senate Bill 17, which would provide broad protections for state-licensed professionals to refuse service that conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs. The bill would empower doctors, lawyers, and pharmacists, among others, to take action in accordance with those beliefs without jeopardizing their licensure status, though they are required to provide treatment to prevent death or serious injury.

 The Austin Statesman has more:

A dozen clergy members opposed the bill, including Rabbi Nancy Kasten of Dallas, who said living according to religious beliefs “should never be confused with permission to use faith as a weapon against those who do not share those beliefs.”

SB 17, one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s top 30 priorities, would prohibit state licensing agencies from adopting rules or policies that limit a professional’s free exercise of religion — including denying or revoking a license for actions taken according to a “sincerely held religious belief.”

The report notes that SB 17 is just one of “more than a dozen similar measures that have yet to be acted upon” that would empower service providers to discriminate in accordance with their religious beliefs. Other bills include SB 85, which “would let therapists decline to provide mental health services based on the counselor’s religious beliefs, if a referral to another professional is made,” and SB 1009, which “would allow state and local judges to refuse to perform marriages that are opposed by their religion.”