- Associated Press - Monday, May 15, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Debate over usually benign State Bar rules has devolved into a bitter “religious liberty” fight in the Texas House.

The chamber approved Monday an oversight law for the Texas Board of Law Examiners, which qualifies applicants for admission to the State Bar.

But tensions rose over an amendment by Fort Worth Republican Rep. Matt Krause saying that when establishing its eligibility requirements, the board will ensure no rule limits admission to practicing law based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

It passed narrowly, 79-66.

Democrats objected, saying the U.S. Constitution already guarantees such protections.

The amendment follows the American Bar Association last year adopting professional conduct rules barring discriminatory actions by lawyers.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a subsequent, nonbinding opinion saying applying those rules would violate First Amendment rights.


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