Groups of Christians in the Texas city of San Antonio are unifying to oppose a measure meant to protect gays from discrimination because they believe the measure discriminates against them.
Opponents of the change to San Antonio's discrimination ordinance say it could prevent anyone who opposes homosexuality from holding public office or getting a city contract.
San Antonio City Council members added new language to the city's nondiscrimination policy which stipulates that anyone who may have "demonstrated a bias" based on sexual orientation cannot work with the city or run for city office.
"No person shall be appointed to a position if the city council finds that such person has, prior to such proposed appointment, engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability, " says the changed law.
The change adds the terms "sexual orientation" and "gender identity."
A group of conservative Christian leaders are opposing the legislation because they think it will erode free speech and religious liberty, the San Antonio Express News reported.
The movement against the measure is spearheaded by a network of about 100 mostly small and independent churches called the Gathering of Pastors and Leaders.
"This is not against the homosexual community. It is not that at all," said Robert Wilson, a local attorney representing the group said in the Express News. "But what we're concerned about is how this affects those with different religious views on this issue. And there's nothing in this statute to protect them."
"A religious view: either you have one or you don't, it is still a religious view. And if I don't attain to their view, then I'm out of the picture completely.
PARKWAY BAPTIST CHURCH
"It's a stifling of free speech," said Pastor Steve Branson of San Antonio's Village Parkway Baptist Church, as reported by Houston television station KHOU.
"If you voice any opinion, no matter how many years back it's been, it can be used against you. City employees are going to be greatly affected by this," Branson continued.
The legislation is beginning to attract attention in Texas and across the country.
"Essentially, if you've ever said anything saying you don't agree with homosexuality, then the city council is going to say you have no place in being involved in the government or having a government contract or being appointed to some city council position," said Jonathan Saenz, with the faith-based advocacy group Texas Values.
CBN News reported that Tim Wildmon, the president of the American Family Association, says the San Antonio proposal is "yet another tactic to exclude Christians from the political process and silence them, not to mention the assault on religious liberties that this unconstitutional policy demonstrates."
"This course of action is well on its way to thought control if people won't even be able to voice their faith-based beliefs about homosexuality in a respectful way," he said. "This leaves Christians with nowhere to go and backs them into a corner, which is exactly what the homosexual lobby wants."
Commenting on Fox News Ken Klukowski of the Family Research Council said of the legislation: "It's extremely dangerous.
"This is a flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitution and the San Antonio City Council looks like a bunch of anti-Christian activists."
San Antonio council representative Diego Bernard and Mayor Julian Castro are advocating the measure.
"When you talk to pastors, priests and rabbis, they may have certain views of marriage and what individual holy books say, but for the most part, they agree there should not be discrimination against people. We're not that far apart," said Bernard in the Express News.
The measure will be considered by San Antonio legislators during August.