AUSTIN (KXAN) — Bills with a focus on religious freedoms have new life this legislative session.
On Tuesday, Texas Rep. Salman Bhojani (D-Euless) announced he re-filed the religious freedom agenda.
- HB 1882- “Expands the list of state optional holidays to include additional faiths.”
- HB1883- “Ensures that STAAR tests and end-of-course exams are not administered on religious holy days.”
- HB1883- “Allows authorized person from all religions to ordain a marriage.”
These bills ask for the state to be more inclusive to all religions.
As an Imam at the North Austin Muslim Community Center, Islam Mossad is used to helping families honor their religious holidays outside of the mosque.
“We often are writing letters to schools saying, you know, this is a holiday and trying to get excused absences,” Mossad said. “Most of the time they’re on board. But every once in a while you get an administrator or principal, who’s just totally out of the loop… doesn’t know what’s going on.”
That’s why he’s standing behind Bhojani, and even attended his announcement for new legislation on Tuesday.
“As one of the first Muslims sworn into the Texas legislature, it is so important for me that my first pieces of legislation work to safeguard protections, not just for my faith, but for every faith,” Bhojani said.
Rep. Soloman Lalani (D-Sugar Land), also one of the first Muslim state representatives, backed Bhojani, expressing why the bills are so important.
“Diversity is our strength,” Lalani said. “But it is only valued when inclusion and acceptance is in there.”
The bills were first introduced by Democratic representatives Joe Moody and James Talarico. Two of the three passed the House but died in the Senate.
Now, it’s supported by more conservative Republicans, and even other faith leaders.
“I am proud to be Jewish, but that wasn’t always the case,” Rabbi Kelley Levy said. “I remember feeling frustrated that I had to make up tests and quizzes that were given during the high holy days, the most sacred days of the year for Jews…we cannot continue to allow our students and multi-faith backgrounds to feel otherwise anymore in this state.”
It’s something that’s echoed by those like imam Mossad who want to reassure their kids they’re just like everyone else.
“You are part of this society,” Mossad said. “You’re not a guest here.”