Score one for “The Big Guy,” who won a big win Friday in the Texas House. Up for a vote was House Concurrent Resolution 1 , brought to the floor by Rep. Phil Stephenson, a Wharton Republican and a CPA in his fifth term in the House. His resolution […]
Score one for “The Big Guy,” who won a big win Friday in the Texas House.
Up for a vote was House Concurrent Resolution 1, brought to the floor by Rep. Phil Stephenson, a Wharton Republican and a CPA in his fifth term in the House. His resolution says the “87th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby supports prayers, including the use of the word ‘God,’ at public gatherings and displays of the Ten Commandments in public educational institutions and other government buildings.”
“Government should not now or ever demonstrate any hostility to observances of faith by disabling the recognition of our religious heritage,” the resolution states.
At a March committee hearing on the measure, the long list of witnesses who signed up in favor of it included people from Texas Values Action, the Texas Republican County Chairs Association, the Texas Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Texas Pastor Council.
Five people signed up against it. Four represented themselves, and one was from the Texas American Federation of Teachers.
Stephenson spoke passionately about his resolution on the House floor on Friday. “America,” he told colleagues, “has a religious history of faith-based principles that have shaped our society."
“There are many forces,” he said, “that want to expel this heritage. Many groups and interests, both public and private, that seem to hold our nation in contempt. These forces have mistaken the notion of separation of church and state to mean that government should be hostile toward any expression of faith. … HCR 1 not only allows these types of expressions, but supports them.”
He turned to point to the In God We Trust inscription at the front of the chamber.
“God bless America,” Stephenson concluded, yielding then for questions from Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie.
“I can tell you are very passionate about this,” Turner said. “Is there a specific problem that you’re trying to address or speak to with this resolution?”
Yes, said Stephenson, now joined by supportive colleagues.
“I just want us to believe that the Big Guy is the big guy of all times,” he said.
“Sure,” said Turner, “understand. You said something about government, hostility or something like that. Is there an example you can point to?”
Yes, Stephenson said, referring to “even our coaches in sports events got fired because they tell the kids to go pray.” He was unable to cite an example, but he said it happened.
Turner: “We do have freedom of religion in this country, do we not?”
Stephenson: “Yes, we do.”
Turner: “You agree that the Constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of religion?”
Stephenson: “Yes sir, and so does Texas.” He said his resolution was a reminder “that we do believe in principles.”
Turner: “I'm not saying I am against it. I'm just asking why it is we think people need a reminder when it is literally the First Amendment to our Constitution, the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights, the bedrock protections for religious expression. … And I just wonder why this is necessary.”
Stephenson: “We are reminded every Sunday about what we should do to follow the Lord. And this country was based on religion. It was. And some people … forgot what’s got us to the game. And I’m sorry that you may not agree with this. And I don’t really care if you do or not. I just wish the American people would wake up. Yes or no. We know the Big Guy always counts.”
The Friday count showed a victory for The Big Guy. The resolution was approved 103-8, with 12 members not voting, including Turner.