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Facebook, Amazon, Apple Among Businesses Critical of Religious Refusal Bill

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    Facebook, Amazon, Apple Among Businesses Critical of Religious Refusal Bill

    Big-name businesses and chambers of commerce in major Texas cities have signed a letter opposing Senate Bill 17, which would allow licensed professionals to refuse service based on religious beliefs. (Published Thursday, April 4, 2019)

    Amazon, Apple and Plano-based Pepsi are some of the companies critical of a bill making its way through the Texas legislature.

    Senate Bill 17 would allow licensed professionals to deny service based on religious beliefs.

    Some say it opens the door to discrimination.

    Playful Corp, a video game development company in McKinney, is focused on creating the latest, greatest video game in a highly-competitive field.

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    But co-founder Katy Drake-Bettner worries SB 17 will make attracting top talent from states like California even tougher.

    "I hate having to have the conversation with somebody when they say 'I'd really love to come work for you but I'm gay and I'm worried that I won't be able to live a life of dignity in Texas,'" Bettner said.

    SB 17 would allow licensed professionals -- like doctors, attorneys and cosmetologists -- to refuse service based on sincerely-held religious beliefs.

    Supporters say it lets them practice their faith without a threat to their license.

    "My faith in God is part of who I am," a hairdresser said during a Senate hearing in March.

    Lisa Hermes is president of the McKinney Chamber of Commerce, one of many organizations and businesses that've signed a letter opposing SB 17. Chambers of Commerce in Plano, Richardson, Irving, Rowlett, Dallas and Fort Worth have also signed the letter.

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    They claim it opens the door to discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

    "The message that we hope it sends is that we want Texas to be welcoming to all people. We want to remain a very globally-competitive, vibrant economy," Hermes said.

    Lubbock republican Senator Charles Perry authored SB 17.

    He disputes claims that the bill discriminates saying in a statement:

    "SB 17 simply offers a defense to the large number of occupational license holders that hold sincerely held religious beliefs. Unfortunately, there have been attempts around the country to force license holders to take oaths that go against their faith and even to suppress their freedom of speech.
    However, I understand some stakeholders have issues with this bill, so there was a lot done to address their concerns. License holders must still follow all State and Federal laws and abide by the standard of care in their profession.
    Additionally, this bill does not protect a person from being fired or sued, and the state may still revoke a person's license for violations.It is concerning and disappointing that businesses or anyone for that matter that would be against protecting one of our basic core principles of who we are as a nation."

    SB 17 would allow medical professionals to cite their religion to refuse medical treatment to anyone, exception when treatment is "necessary to prevent death or imminent bodily injury."

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    The bill has passed the state Senate and has been referred to a House committee.

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