Coleman, Garnet F.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 05/24/2011
Coleman Bill to Protect Religious Freedom Headed to Governor's Desk
Austin-- The Texas House yesterday accepted Senate amendments to legislation that will protect religious freedom, sending the bill to the Governor's desk. HB 1278 by Reps. Coleman, Riddle and Hochberg, and sponsored by Sen. Seliger prohibits a property owners' association (POA) from barring a resident from displaying a religious item on the door of his or her home. Rep. Coleman filed this legislation after a POA threatened a Houston couple with a hefty recurring fine if the couple didn't take down their mezuzah, which is required to be posted by their Jewish faith.
The couple's POA rules stated that floor mats, plants, and decorative items were not allowed on common areas. However, several homeowners had large plants and door mats in the hallways.
"I filed this bill to extend religious freedom in situations where it may not exist," said Rep. Coleman. "In this situation it was very clear that this couple was singled out because of their faith. Thanks to this family's courage and willingness to share their story, other Texans will not have to go through a similar experience."
Senator Seliger added, "Religious expression is a cornerstone of our freedom and American citizenship. If we do not respond to the infringement of the rights of one family, we endanger the rights of all families."
HB 1278 bars a POA from prohibiting a resident from displaying religious items, that are motivated by a resident’s sincere religious belief, on the door of his or her home. HB 1278 is carefully crafted with significant safeguards to POAs. A POA may still adopt rules to prohibit an item if it is larger than 25 square inches, threatens public health or safety, violates a law, or contains language or graphics that are patently offensive to a passerby.
"This protects individuals of all faiths, said Rep. Coleman. "The size described in this bill would protect the display of religious symbols like a cross, a mezuzah, a small Buddha, and many other symbols."
"I want to thank Reps. Hochberg and Riddle and Sen. Seliger for their work on this legislation," concluded Rep. Coleman. "I also want to thank the Liberty Institute and the property owners' associations for working with me to develop the language in this bill."
Illinois and Florida have adopted similar legislation.
Representative Coleman is available for comment.
Contact: Rebecca Acuna