Bill Text: TX HB525 | 2021-2022 | 87th Legislature | Introduced


Bill Title: Relating to the protection of religious organizations.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Republican 1-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2020-11-12 - Filed [HB525 Detail]

Download: Texas-2021-HB525-Introduced.html
  87R1105 YDB-D
 
  By: Shaheen H.B. No. 525
 
 
 
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
 
AN ACT
  relating to the protection of religious organizations.
         BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
         SECTION 1.  Subtitle H, Title 10, Government Code, is
  amended by adding Chapter 2401 to read as follows:
  CHAPTER 2401. PROTECTION OF RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
         Sec. 2401.001.  DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:
               (1)  "Disaster" has the meaning assigned by Section
  418.004.
               (2)  "Governmental entity" means:
                     (A)  this state;
                     (B)  a board, commission, council, department, or
  other agency in the executive branch of state government that is
  created by the state constitution or a statute, including an
  institution of higher education as defined by Section 61.003,
  Education Code;
                     (C)  the legislature or a legislative agency;
                     (D)  a state judicial agency or the State Bar of
  Texas;
                     (E)  a political subdivision of this state,
  including a county, municipality, or special district or authority;
  or
                     (F)  an officer, employee, or agent of an entity
  described by Paragraphs (A) through (E).
               (3)  "Person" has the meaning assigned by Section
  311.005, except the term does not include:
                     (A)  an employee of a governmental entity acting
  within the employee's scope of employment; or
                     (B)  a contractor of a governmental entity acting
  within the scope of the contract.
               (4)  "Religious organization" means an organization
  that is a religious organization under Section 110.011(b), Civil
  Practice and Remedies Code.
         Sec. 2401.002.  ESSENTIAL BUSINESS; PROHIBITED
  RESTRICTIONS. (a) Notwithstanding any other law, a religious
  organization is an essential business at all times in this state,
  including during a declared state of disaster, and the
  organization's religious and other related activities are
  essential activities even if the activities are not listed as
  essential in an order issued during the disaster.
         (b)  A governmental entity may not:
               (1)  at any time, including during a declared state of
  disaster, prohibit a religious organization from engaging in
  religious and other related activities or continuing to operate in
  the discharge of the organization's foundational faith-based
  mission and purpose; or
               (2)  during a declared state of disaster order a
  religious organization to close or otherwise alter the
  organization's purposes or activities.
         Sec. 2401.003.  RELIEF AVAILABLE. (a) A person may assert an
  actual or threatened violation of Section 2401.002 as a claim or
  defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding and obtain:
               (1)  injunctive relief;
               (2)  declaratory relief; and
               (3)  court costs and reasonable attorney's fees.
         (b)  Notwithstanding any other law, a person may commence an
  action under this section and relief may be granted regardless of
  whether the person has sought or exhausted available administrative
  remedies.
         Sec. 2401.004.  IMMUNITY WAIVED. A person who alleges a
  violation of Section 2401.002 may sue the governmental entity for
  the relief provided under Section 2401.003. Sovereign or
  governmental immunity, as applicable, is waived and abolished to
  the extent of liability for that relief.
         Sec. 2401.005.  ATTORNEY GENERAL ACTION; INTERVENTION IN
  PROCEEDING; PROHIBITED RECOVERY OF EXPENSES. (a) The attorney
  general may bring an action for injunctive or declaratory relief
  against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a
  governmental entity to enforce compliance with this chapter.
         (b)  This section may not be construed to deny, impair, or
  otherwise affect any authority of the attorney general or a
  governmental entity acting under other law to institute or
  intervene in an action.
         (c)  The attorney general may not recover expenses incurred
  in bringing, instituting, or intervening in an action described by
  this section.
         Sec. 2401.006.  INTERPRETATION. (a) This chapter may not be
  construed to preempt a state or federal law that is equally or more
  protective of the free exercise of religious beliefs or to narrow
  the meaning or application of a state or federal law protecting the
  free exercise of religious beliefs.
         (b)  This chapter may not be construed to prevent a
  governmental entity from providing, either directly or through a
  person who is not seeking protection under this chapter, any
  benefit or service authorized under state or federal law.
         SECTION 2.  Chapter 2401, Government Code, as added by this
  Act, applies only to a cause of action that accrues on or after the
  effective date of this Act. A cause of action that accrued before
  the effective date of this Act is governed by the law in effect
  immediately before the effective date of this Act, and that law is
  continued in effect for that purpose.
         SECTION 3.  This Act takes effect immediately if it receives
  a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as
  provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution.  If this
  Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this
  Act takes effect September 1, 2021.
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