Does the U.S. Pastor Council Have a Right to Discriminate?
Houston-based group files federal suit
By Mary Tuma, Fri., Oct. 12, 2018
The right-wing group behind last year's anti-transgender "bathroom bill" is now targeting Austin. The Houston-based U.S. Pastor Council filed suit in federal court on Saturday, Oct. 6, against the city of Austin, Mayor Steve Adler, and Sareta Davis, chair of the Austin Human Rights Commission, to secure what they see as their right not to hire gay or transgender employees. The council, representing 25 (unnamed) Austin-area churches, claims the city's nondiscrimination ordinance should carve out exemptions for churches or other groups that hold "religious objections" to certain job seekers. The suit alleges the ordinance violates the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, as well as the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. On Wednesday, the equally conservative Texas Values filed a second, similar suit.
"Because these member churches rely on the Bible rather than modern-day cultural fads for religious and moral guidance, they will not hire practicing homosexuals or transgendered people as clergy," the suit reads, adding that many churches also believe the Bible forbids a woman to serve as senior pastor and will not consider women for such a role.
The group is led by virulent anti-LGBTQ activist Dave Welch, who has made it a mission to repeal NDOs across Texas, including in Houston and Plano. He led attacks on openly gay former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, labeling her a "sodomite," and has called gay people a "morally depraved special interest group" and those who support LGBTQ rights part of the "forces of spiritual darkness," according to the Texas Freedom Network.
Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.