Rep. Ashby fights for religious liberty
State Representative Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) has signed on to an amicus brief on the issue of protection of religious liberty. The lawsuit in question was filed by a group of parents in 2003 to enforce their children’s rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to bring certain gifts to a public school-sponsored Christmas party.
Over a decade ago, the Legislature passed the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act in response to a series of federal court decisions that many legislators believed significantly undercut the religious freedoms of all Texans. Since then, other measures dealing with similar issues have been passed. These include the Moment of Silence and Pledge of Allegiance Bill in 2003, the Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act in 2007, and the Merry Christmas Bill, coauthored by Rep. Ashby during the 2013 session.
“The Winter holidays that are celebrated by Texans, whether it’s Christmas, or Hanukkah, or any other tradition, are important to our culture and our communities,” Rep. Ashby said. “Our children, teachers, parents and school administrators should have the freedom to acknowledge these traditions in our public schools without fear of censorship, punishment, persecution or litigation. I was proud to coauthor HB 308, the Merry Christmas Bill, and proud to see it signed into law. But this law, or any of the previous laws passed with the intent of protecting religious liberty, will not do any good unless they are fully and fairly enforced in court.”
Many involved in the case have said the federal court has misinterpreted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and Rep. Ashby said he signed the amicus brief in an effort to help safeguard the religious rights of Texans.
“What should have been an obvious case under the Act has become a procedural nightmare,” Rep. Ashby said. “The federal court of appeals has thrown the case out, and we are simply asking the Court to withdraw its decision and let the Texas Supreme Court interpret the Act. Part of our job as legislators is to protect the right of all Texans to engage in the free exercise of religion, and to ensure that Texas citizens can seek redress when that right is violated.”