Casting the fight over transgender bathroom use as spiritual warfare for the nation’s soul, conservative Christian pastors rallied Thursday morning at the Capitol, pressing House Republican leaders to pass legislation they said would protect privacy and safety.
The crowd of about 200 pastors and supporters broke into frequent chants of “Let the House vote,” criticizing House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, and Rep. Byron Cook, the Republican chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, for blocking legislation that would prohibit transgender-friendly restrooms and changing rooms.
“The way that God made us, he made us male and he made us female. There is no in between,” said Janice Flowers with Faith Outreach Center in San Antonio. “Why have we muddied the waters of our basic and fundamental knowledge with the politically correct answer rather than the truth?”
“We are engaged in a spiritual warfare here,” said Pastor Stephen Broden of Dallas. “We are in the throes of a deliberate attempt to try to strip our nation from its Judeo-Christian heritage to the embracement of doctrines of demons: socialism, communism, Marxism, Darwinism, secular humanism.”
Rev. Dave Welch, head of the Texas Pastor Council and organizer of Thursday’s event, noted that an interfaith group of religious leaders stood on the same spot two days earlier to decry the legislation as hateful.
“The thing that distinguishes this group from others who claim to be clergy is this group actually believes that the Bible is true — the whole Bible is true,” Welch said. “And therefore we don’t have the latitude of making up our own moral value system.”
Later Thursday, parents and their transgender children met in the Capitol to denounce the “bathroom bills” as reckless, dangerous and un-American.
Chelsa Morrison, mother of a transgender daughter, 9-year-old Marilyn, said she wanted to tell Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that their support for the bills opened already vulnerable children to additional bullying and isolation.
“The fact we’re still having to stand here and begging you to protect our children should be criminal,” Chelsa Morrison said. “My daughter is not a pawn in your game. None of our kids are. Do right by our kids, do right by our Texans, and stop this nonsense now.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, which sponsored the round-table discussion and news conference with Equality Texas, said history will harshly judge Abbott and Patrick for pushing legislation he called discriminatory and dangerous.
“It’s not too late to end this excursion into the politics of hate,” Griffin said.
Also Thursday, the list of corporations opposing the transgender bathroom bills grew longer — including PepsiCo, Frito-Lay, Uber, Lyft, PayPal and Neiman Marcus. Big Oil and leading tech companies have also announced opposition.
“No industry will remain untouched by the unnecessary harm that discriminatory laws will do to our competitiveness, to our ability to attract talent, and to our employees and their families,” leaders of the companies told Abbott by letter.
At the morning rally of pastors, several speakers criticized corporations and the Texas Association of Business for their opposition.
“Texas is not for sale. Decency is not for sale. The rights of our women and children are not for sale. Privacy is not for sale,” Pastor Hernan Castano of Houston said.
“When did it become OK for the business lobby of Texas to dictate our Christian values and to declare that perception is the rule of the day?” said Trayce Bradford with Texas Eagle Forum. “Well, they may want to live in a fantasy land, but we live in the real world. We moms, we women that live in this real world will protect our sons and daughters.”