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Faith Religious Freedom

Balancing Faith and Education: The Tale of Two Texas Bills and Public Sentiment

Written By: Shanzeh Mirza, Student Policy Associate

Religious liberty was a central issue of the 88th session. Several bills were introduced that would have a significant impact on students, families, employees, and Texans at large. Two bills, in particular, offered significant protections to safeguard students’ ability to celebrate their religion, HB1212, and HB1883. HB1212 passed without opposition, but the same cannot be said for HB1883, which sparked notable controversy.

HB 1883 ensures that state-designated test days do not fall on fourteen designated holy days of major religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. The holidays are as follows: All Saints Day, Christmas, Diwali, Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Vaisakhi, Vesak, Immaculate Conception, Yom Kippur, Good Friday, Holy Thursday, and Reformation Day. 

Before HB1883, countless students were expected to take major exams on their religion’s holy days. Children and their families faced an immensely difficult choice as a result – whether to prioritize their faith or education. The choice is one no individual should ever make, but it was all too common in a state as diverse as Texas.  

While HB1883 was able to pass, it faced significant opposition. The bill was shared alongside HCR 80, which would have marked May as Muslim Heritage Month and celebrated Muslim’s rich culture and storied contributions to Texas. HB 1883 and HCR 80 were shared online in forums that asked readers to call on their state representatives not to pass the bills. Those against the bill wrote that Muslim culture should not be made into a state-recognized month. Authors reasoned there had not been a context of Muslim holidays being federally recognized as with Christmas and Easter, much less state recognized. Many constituents copied and pasted a similar sentiment: “I am not in favor of amending the Education Code to disallow assessment instruments from being administered in public schools on Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr. These are not federally-recognized U.S. holidays and should not be recognized in Texas public schools.” 

About HCR 80, the comments expressed discomfort that there was a month for Muslims but not other religions. One individual wrote, “I OPPOSE, because in the USA there’s freedom of religion. With that in mind, there should be a month for every religion and that’s not possible, why are you going to discriminate [against] any religion?” However, the majority of the comments against HCR 80 and HB 1883 were far more severe and hateful responses.

So what did the backlash look like? What happened can best be understood as a fear of Islamic indoctrination and propaganda. In response to HCR 80, one constituent based their opposition to the bill because they did not want to platform a religion that “gives permission to men to beat their wives.” They further maintained, “America is not a Muslim country. This will serve as a facility for the indoctrination of our children, which will ultimately lead to their goal of sharia war in the state of Texas. This needs to be stopped immediately, and the representative sponsored this should be voted out immediately.” Such commentators also suggested and referenced website links that they stated helped them understand Islam “for what it really is.” However, these website links spread misinformation about Islam and portrayed the religion as far more vicious. 

The comments referenced John Guandolo’s classes on Understanding the Threat (UTT). Guandolo is a former FBI agent and known anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist. He frequently held counterterrorism seminars for local law enforcement, even once sponsored by Texas’ leading law enforcement agency, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. However, his training programs were seeped in Islamophobic messaging. He asserted the religion of Islam is at war with the U.S. and further conspired that Muslims were a severe threat working to subvert America. He also advocated against building mosques in the U.S., maintaining that they are “where battles are planned, jihadis trained [and] weapons stored.” Guandolo eventually became known as one of the leading anti-Muslim figures in the country. 

The overwhelming amount of comments that called for these bills to be rejected based on fear of Islam is a concern and one that depicts a far larger problem as the religion of Islam was equated with Sharia law and the villainization of Muslims. Below are a few comments that were written against HCR 80 that demonstrate a fear of ‘others’ and a lack of mutual respect given to religions:


“With school districts perpetuating CRT and creeping into our libraries gender ideologies and pornography as well as drag storytimes, now, we are adding holy days that are not even part of our American tradition while negated long – held holidays.?” 

“This is America, Christian nation, Christian holidays.”

Religious liberty and freedom of religion is a right and privilege that the U.S., since its founding, has always promised to uphold. Sentiments that express hostility toward one religion and demand unconditional deference to another can be especially dangerous when they coexist with misinformation. When used to influence and dictate legislation, the statements and beliefs merely grow in power, threatening one of Texas and America’s core values. 

Religious freedom is a cornerstone of our nation’s founding. It is essential to safeguard and uphold in every instance. Addressing misinformation that negatively impacts religious communities and actively educating themselves about unfamiliar communities is arguably one of the most important steps. Sudden, unfounded limitations surrounding religious liberty establish a dangerous precedent where our founding principles may no longer be upheld. Dialogue, mutual respect, and understanding are essential starting points but require continued, concerted effort. All individuals deserve to practice and celebrate their faith regardless without hesitation or fear.  

Quran 94:5-6 :

“And indeed, with hardship, comes ease.”

Bible; Mark 12:31:

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Torah; Joshua 1:9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

To read the original source of the opposition – Facebook, Comments.

As well as public comments for HB1882 – Texas Capitol.

Comments for HCR80 – Texas Capitol.

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