Texas approves constitutional amendment barring state from limiting religious services


Texas voters overwhelmingly approved eight amendments to the Texas Constitution on Tuesday, including an essential caregiver amendment and additional religious freedom protections, according to election results published by the Texas Secretary of State that show all voting centers reporting.

Though freedom of religion is already guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the constitutional amendment spells out that governmental bodies are not permitted to restrict religious worship.

In the wake of restrictions on religious worship that occurred during the government’s response to COVID-19, the legislature proposed an amendment to ban local governments from enacting restrictions on religious services.

The amendment, which received broad and bipartisan support among lawmakers, passed by a vote of 925,447 ballots or 62 percent in favor to 557,093 ballots or 38 percent against.

The existing freedom of worship provision in the Texas Constitution reads in part, “No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society or mode of worship.”

The amendment voters just added reads, “The state or a political subdivision of this state may not enact, adopt, or issue a statute, order, proclamation, decision, or rule that prohibits or limits religious services, including religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and places of worship, in this state by a religious organization established to support and service the propagation of a sincerely held religious belief.”

Texas voters also passed Proposition 6 in a landslide, securing a right for nursing home residents and those living in similar facilities to appoint an essential caregiver. The legislature proposed the amendment after many people were cut off from loved ones during the pandemic as a result of executive orders by Governor Greg Abbott.

The amendment passed with 88 percent in favor and only 12 percent against.

Proposition 1, which allows the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association to hold charitable raffles at rodeos, passed with 84 percent in favor and 16 percent against.

Voters also approved amendments to add eligibility requirements for jurists on the Texas Supreme Court, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, courts of appeals, and state district courts and extend the jurisdiction of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to include candidates as well as office holders.

The eligibility requirements for judges, Proposition 4, still passed easily but received the least amount of support, with 59 percent in favor and 41 percent against.

Proposition 2, which grants counties the ability to raise taxes via bond debt to pay for transportation projects in “unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted areas in the county” passed with 63 percent to 37 percent.

By a margin of nearly nine to one, Texans also passed limited school property tax relief for some surviving spouses of disabled individuals as well as property tax exemptions for surviving spouses of those who sustained fatal injuries as a result of military service.

The latter amendment expands the exemption to include those killed in the line of duty rather than limiting it to combat-related injuries. The enabling legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 611, is slated to take effect on New Year’s Day now that the voters have given the go-ahead.

In Texas, constitutional amendments must be proposed by the legislature and approved by two-thirds of the Texas Senate and Texas House. They require a simple majority to become part of the Texas Constitution.

The publication of Harris County’s election results were delayed for hours after the polls closed, which the Elections Department indicated was the result of power issued at the main counting station.

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