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Bettencourt Legislation on Religious Freedom Heading To Governor's Desk

SB 581, the Homeowners Religious Freedom Act, authored by Senator Paul Bettencourt (R- Houston) and sponsored by Representative Mike Schofield (R-Houston) in the House passed both chambers to provide protection for homeowners who wish to place certain religious displays in their front yard. Too many homeowners’ associations (HOAs) had adopted restrictive rules that would order the removal of religious displays on homeowners’ property. SB 581 is joint-authored by Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) and Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Montgomery) and coauthored by Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) and Senator Royce West (D-Dallas).

"Texans will own their front yard again! Today's vote in the Texas House confirms that the average Texas Homeowner will actually make their own decisions again on Religious Displays!" Said Bettencourt. “The HOA does not own your property and should not be in the business of placing overly burdensome restrictions on the free exercise of religious displays," he added.

State Rep. Mike Schofield, the author of the bill in the House, said "Preventing someone from having a religious symbol on their own lawn is an infringement on freedom that is positively un-Texan, and it must stop and with today's vote it will."

SB 581 key points:

  • strikes provisions limiting your right to religious displays to the front door, prohibiting the HOA from taking down any religious display on your property.
  • deletes the provision allowing the HOA to effectively ban religious displays by having control of the allowable materials -- or not allowing any at all.
  • only allows the removal of displays that are patently offensive "for reasons other than religious content"