Today, Jan. 10, 2023, the 88th Session of the Texas Legislature begins in Austin. Legislative deliberation is one outstanding feature of a thriving democratic society, as those elected from the people debate and legislate on behalf of the people. U.S. President Calvin Coolidge once wrote, “The power to compel due consideration is the distinguishing mark of a deliberative body.” I expect compelling arguments will flow from many sides of each issue this session.
But for those Texans whose citizenship is in heaven, we are ultimately governed by and allegiant to the laws of Christ’s eternal kingdom. Our desire is that God’s will might be done on earth as it is in heaven, so we both work and pray that the righteousness of heaven might be reflected in the laws of men, if only in the Lone Star State. While many of us will not watch the legislative debates religiously as they progress on the floor this session, most of us will at least want to know that just laws were considered dutifully, debated fairly, and upheld rightly in Austin this year.
Your Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee (TERLC) works on behalf of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches to educate, resource, and mobilize SBTC church leaders and church members to be actively engaged in shaping public policy in Texas. As the session progresses, the committee will provide real-time updates, helpful resources, and practical action opportunities. We find that Texas officials and legislators want to hear from Texas churches. Many of them understand that not only do SBTC churches account for a major segment of Texas citizenship, but that the biblical values they uphold are good for the economic and social well-being of Texans. They want to hear from you.
It is reported that the Legislature will enter this session with an over $27 billion-plus surplus, which State Comptroller Glenn Hegar has called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” While this is great news for the Texas economy, it will, no doubt, spark much debate regarding how these funds should be spent and how the government might leverage the overage to secure even more in the future through certain kinds of legislation. Lobbyists for state-sanctioned predatory gambling, for example, are already full force in Austin this year in unprecedented numbers. Other proposed laws will advocate for more government spending toward progressive moral and social issues that Christians know grieve the heart of God and lead free societies to ruin.
After months of prayer and discussion, your TERLC will focus most of its engagement this session on seven priority issues: religious liberty; sanctity of life and orphan care; gender identity; the family, education of children, and parental rights; sex trafficking, pornography, and sexual abuse; gambling; and economic freedom. We base these engagement priorities on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and SBTC resolutions. Our public policy advisor, Cindy Asmussen, has been working diligently in Austin over the past several months in anticipation. Based on our research and activity thus far, we expect some very significant pieces of legislation to come to the floor this session regarding each of these priorities.
On this opening day of the 88th Session, allow me to encourage you to do three things:
- Pray. Pause for five to 10 minutes today sometime, alone or gathered with family members or Christian friends, and pray for the session. Pray that God will direct debates and the decisions toward righteousness so that Texans might thrive under His hand of blessing. Pray for your legislators by name. You can find the representatives for your specific county and district using this link.
- Stay informed. Click here to subscribe to the TERLC Sentinel email updates to stay informed about legislative actions and engagement opportunities that are important to Baptists in our state. Watch for informative content and urgent action items on SBTC social media accounts and in your TERLC Sentinel email updates as the session progresses. Subscribe to the TERLC’s text-alert system to get urgent prayer requests and action items on your phone in real-time. (To sign up for TERLC text alerts, text JOIN to 817-502-3958 to opt in. By opting in, you are agreeing to receive texts from the SBTC-TERLC. Standard carrier rates may apply.)
- Get involved. Decide now that when an opportunity comes to testify before a House or Senate committee concerning a bill that embodies one or more of these priority issues, you will make the effort to do so. Cindy Asmussen and your TERLC will help you be prepared and will walk with you every step of the way. Also, I encourage you to begin active engagement right now with one simple action: send your representatives an email to let them know you have prayed for them and are in agreement with the TERLC’s legislative priorities (attach this TERLC priorities letter to your email).
The Preamble to our Texas Constitution begins, “Humbly invoking the blessings of Almighty God…” May it be so in 2023. SBTC churches know that God blesses a people who seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people,” (Proverbs 14:34).
So, together, let’s pray that through the deliberations and actions of the 88th Texas Legislative Session, the righteousness of heaven will be reflected in the laws of men.