public policy

Caring for All God’s Children: Children’s Health Insurance Program needs authorization

By Caleb Seibert

On Sept. 30, Congress allowed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire throughout the United States. CHIP provides coverage to children and families who have too much income to qualify for Medicaid but not enough money to pay for health insurance. Many policymakers in Washington have assured the public that the program will be refunded soon, but disagreements in Congress threaten to prolong the issue.

The subsequent waiting period and program insecurity have... [continue]

Dreamers need our compassion

By Jesús Romero

Edith Franco was only 8 years old when her family crossed from Mexico into the United States to find work and a better future 17 years ago. She has lived in the U.S. most of her life, and in 2012 she received an immigration benefit known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). DACA provided a work permit that enabled them to get a job, obtain a driver's license and a Social Security card. It was not a pathway to citizenship, but it was temporary legal status.

DACA is the benefit granted to dreamers, or children who, through no... [continue]

85th Legislative Session is Officially Over: A Special Session Report

Gov. Abbott called for a special session, which began July 18 and ended Aug. 15. The special session agenda covered 20 items that the Legislature neglected or ran out of time to pass during the 140-day regular session earlier this Spring. Click here for a list of special session agenda items.

The Christian Life Commission focused primarily on three issues in line with the public policy objectives set by our commissioners last Fall.

Human Life

In accordance with Genesis 1:26-31, we believe every person has an innate... [continue]

Bills Are Moving; Help Them Across the Finish Line

The end of the 85th Legislature is rapidly approaching. Several CLC priority bills are still moving, but we need your help to ensure they make it to the governor’s desk.

HB 4: Kinship Care

Families whose incomes are less than or equal to 300 percent of the poverty level would be eligible for a monthly payment not more than 50 percent of the reimbursement rate for foster families. HB 4 helps keep kids with their extended families by increasing financial support for kinship caregivers.

HB 4 is a wise investment in kinship care.... [continue]

Nine-member Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Missouri playground case

By John Litzler

Today (April 19), the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is hearing oral arguments in one of the most important religious liberty cases of the last few decades. SCOTUS, which only had an eight-member court since Justice Antonin Scalia passed away last February, has a full bench for the first time in over a year. In January, President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. On April 7, Justice Gorsuch was confirmed just in time to begin hearing cases on... [continue]

Capitol Update

This week, I’d like to highlight two bills the CLC is supporting relating our legislative priorities. To review the CLC legislative priorities, click here.

HB 132

HB 132 expands eligibility for the one-time $1,000 cash assistance payment to aunts, uncles, and siblings of the child and reduces the age requirement from 45 to 25. About 30 percent of kinship placements in Texas are with relatives other than grandparents.

Research has shown that kids placed with relatives go through fewer placement disruptions, fewer behavioral problems, fewer mental health disorders,... [continue]

Last Week Today: A Dispatch from the Capitol

On Monday, I was privileged to testify before the House Human Services Committee on HB 4. 

HB 4 authored by Rep. Cindy Burkett (R-Mesquite) would increase financial support for relatives who take in children who must be removed from their birth parents--kinship care. 

One way to improve our child welfare system is to help kids stay with their extended families. Strengthening kinship care is one of the solutions developed by the Texas House Child Welfare Working Group, which had been tasked by Speaker Straus to come up with recommendations... [continue]

Bacote: Some practical help to sustain your public witness

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. -- Apostle Paul (Galatians 6:7-10)

Paul encouraged the church in Galatia to not grow... [continue]

Johnson Amendment protects interests of both church and government

Kathryn Freeman, public policy director of the Christian Life Commission, released the following statement in response to President Trump's announced intention to do away with the Johnson Amendment:

“President Trump said Thursday he would destroy a centerpiece of church-state separation in the the United States -- the Johnson Amendment. This 1954 amendment has clearly protected the tax-exempt status of churches as non-political entities dedicated to the common good of our communities, states and nation. Pastors are

... [continue]

CLC staff: Perspective on refugee resettlement program changes

By Kathryn Freeman and Ferrell Foster

We are praying for President Trump and his administration as they are making many vital decisions that affect the lives of those here and abroad. We prayerfully request that President Trump reconsider the scope and effect of this order and work with congressional leadership to devise a solution that bolsters American security without causing unnecessary delays for refugees fleeing violence or disregarding traditional American values.

Here are our concerns regarding Section 5 of his continue]

How to Be An Anti-Human Trafficking Advocate

By Tomi L. Grover, Ph.D.

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In conjunction with this, advocates from across Texas are preparing to address their 85th session legislative representatives and senators on the issues pertaining to human trafficking.  According to the online Texas Legislature resources, there appear to be 17 bills that have already been introduced. This is an opportune time to help our elected leaders understand the concerns of their constituency related to human trafficking and which bills... [continue]

Vouchers pose a threat to religious liberty

During the time between legislative sessions, the Texas legislators have a series of committee meetings to review previously passed legislation and examine potential legislative issues for the upcoming session. On Wednesday, Sept. 14, the Senate Committee on Education met to discuss various school choice proposals that would divert public funds from public schools to private educational institutions. Historically, the CLC has opposed vouchers over religious liberty and educational inequality concerns.

As Dr. Pinson noted in “Baptists Oppose... [continue]

Texas’ Child Protection System is Failing our Children

By Vicki Spriggs

Texas is in the midst of a crisis that, if not addressed with the highest urgency, will create lasting damage for generations to come. Children removed from their homes are placed in a structurally unsound system that is meant to protect them, but in reality often subjects them to further trauma, abuse, and neglect.

News articles continue to expose the failings of our state’s child protection system — and the system shows little indication of improvement. From excessive caseworker turnover and management flaws, to... [continue]

Advocacy Alert: #StoptheDebtTrap with CFPB

Many of you have followed our work to reform the payday and auto-title lending industry, some have called their legislators and spoken at city council meetings in support of local payday ordinances, and there is still important work to do. Today, we are asking our network to support a new rule by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau aimed at cracking down on some of the most abusive practices in this industry.

The CFPB is designed to a “provide a single point of accountability for enforcing federal consumer financial laws and protecting... [continue]

Beware of payday loan wolves

By Anyra Cano-Valencia

(Adapted from a piece that originally appeared in Christianity Today.)

In the Spring of 2013, my husband, Pastor Carlos Valencia, and I had just finished dinner when we got one of those heart wrenching visits at home, where a church member or neighbor appears broken and suffering. Mrs. Mendoza (not her real name) was desperate, defeated, and ashamed. She didn’t know who to turn to other than her pastor, someone she trusted.

In tears, she said was responsible for her family losing their home, and she was about to lose her car: She... [continue]

Education inequity should concern Christians

Some things are simply wrong. They harm people; they dishonor God. And, it is wrong what we are doing to children in Texas. We are failing to educate many of them during a time in which education is essential to their future well-being.

As Christians, we care not only for our own children and the kids in our church; we have a deep concern for all children because they contain the very image of God. Just as our “pro-life” stance causes us to care for the lives of unborn children, we are called to care for them after their birth. ( ... [continue]

A Christian Response to Reentry

I walked out of prison more resilient than I was at intake, a miracle considering the harsh nature of prison. At intake, I was completely defeated. My addiction had progressed to criminality, and everything in my life that had any value to me was stripped away. I was filled with shame. The Christian volunteers I met while in prison helped me see that I am not defined by the worse thing I ever did. None of us are. They helped me to chart a path to forgiveness and hope.

Along the way, I embraced the limited opportunities available to me. I earned... [continue]

Now What? What to do the Day After A Life-Changing Experience

We have all been there. We’ve gone to a life changing conference or heard an amazing sermon or even just had a really amazing quiet time to start our day and afterwards, we are super charged and ready to do amazing things for God. We are going to change the world!

And then, we step outside our door or return home or enter our churches, and we aren’t quite as sure. We don’t know how to get started, or we do start and are met with obstacles or roadblocks. Other people aren’t excited; the pastor doesn’t want to implement your... [continue]

Predatory lending is unjust because it traps borrowers

(Stephen Reeves will lead a workshop titled "Predatory Lending and the Church: Morality, Missions and Advocacy" during the CLC's Micah 6:8 Conference March 31-April 1 at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio.)

Through the prophet Micah, God commands us to do justice. Doing justice is not extra credit; it is not bonus activity or tangential to the Gospel. The work of justice is at the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came proclaiming release to those held captive.

Millions of our neighbors are held captive... [continue]

It's January, but March 1 is coming

Things are about to get crazy in Texas – or crazier. It is less than two months before the Republican and Democratic primary elections here (March 1), and early voting begins Feb. 16.

No party speaks for God. There will be committed Christians, as well as others, running in both parties. Some of them will actually use language that connects deeply with those of us who seek to follow Christ.

Language is a powerful tool for good or evil, right or wrong. As a result, we Christians need to listen with all the intelligence and wisdom we can muster through the... [continue]

Reyes to testify in support of House Bill 3567

AUSTIN–This morning, Gus Reyes, director of the Christian Life Commission, will be testifying in support of a bill by Rep. Scott Sanford (Executive Pastor at Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church in Allen). The bill will be heard in Texas House State Affairs.

HB 3567 protects religious organizations, or entities controlled by religious organization (such as schools) or pastors and staff from having to solemnize or participate in anyway with any marriage that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Below is the testimony Reyes will be... [continue]

CLC opens doors for advocates to interact at the Capitol

AUSTIN - Advocates work for the best interest of all, the voiceless, or marginalized, Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the Christian Life Commission, shared with attendees at CLC Advocacy Day.

The event was hosted on April 9, at the First United Methodist Church in Austin, across the street from the State Capitol building. Listen to a review of the day here:

Executive Director David Hardage was in attendance for the day, giving a welcome to Advocacy Day attendees. Hardage was encouraged by the... [continue]

Texas RFRA Is Both Necessary and Working

Given the current media firestorm around proposed RFRA laws in Indiana and Arkansas, the Christian Life Commission would like to give a brief history of RFRA laws and reiterate our support for state RFRA laws that mirror the federal law.

The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed in 1993 in response to the Supreme Court decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which held that generally applicable laws that conflict with religious beliefs do not violate the First Amendment. The Smith ruling meant that any law, as long as it was not... [continue]

States need RFRA matching federal model, like Texas

The Christian Life Commission staff believes it is wise for each state to pass RFRA laws or constitutional amendments that mirror the federal RFRA language. The Texas RFRA mirrors the federal RFRA, both passed with bipartisan support and reflecting an appropriate balance between religious freedom and government interests.

The CLC is proud to have worked on passage of the Texas RFRA 16 years ago. We believe respect for religious freedom is an important part of our democracy, and separation of church and state is a foundational... [continue]

The Cavalry Has Arrived: How the Federal Government Plays an Important Role in Protecting the Poor

Have you ever heard the phrase "send in the cavalry?" It's a colloquialism, but historically its a military term for the regiment of an army that fights on horseback. The cavalry historically was the most easily mobilized unit of an army and men fighting on horseback were at a greater advantage than those fighting on foot. For one they had greater height and speed than their opponents on the ground and the improved mobility helped them outflank and overpower their opponents more easily. In... [continue]

​Did You Know It Pays to Prey on the Poor In Texas?

An unexpected medical bill, car trouble, buying school supplies, a funeral or a summer utility bill—one or many of these expenses have pushed countless Texans to the financial brink. Needing a way to meet the unexpected expense, many families turn to payday and auto title lenders who are all too happy to profit off of people's misfortune.

Usually payday and auto-title borrowers are already financially fragile and rather than being a lifesaver these loans become an anchor. Payday loans are unsecured short-term loans that simply... [continue]

Anti Human Trafficking Rally

In case you missed it. Here's a look at the anti human trafficking rally last week.

When Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) took to the steps Thursday morning, February 12, at the south end of the state Capitol, she addressed individuals who share a common concern; seeing the end of slavery once and for all in the United States.

She talked about human trafficking, which the State Department of Public Safety defines as the: "Recruitment, harboring, transporting or procurement of a person for labor or services for the purpose of involuntary servitude,... [continue]

​Freedom for captives: The CLC is working to end trafficking

As the 84th Legislative Session has begun, the CLC staff wants to provide an overview of our public policy priorities. Last week, we talked about advocacy in general, and this week we explore human trafficking.

Many people assume the 13th amendment ended slavery in America, but there are still slaves among us. Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transporting or procurement of a person for labor or services for the purpose of involuntary servitude or commercial sex acts. Everyday men, women and children... [continue]

New opportunities in a new year

In Isaiah, the Lord tells the Israelites that His servants will faithfully bring forth justice to the nations and describes them as a light to the nations capable of opening blind eyes, breaking the chains of the oppressed, and setting captives free (Isaiah 42:1-9, Isaiah 58). As the 84th Legislative Session is set to begin next Tuesday, we have a new opportunity to engage in this kingdom work at the Capitol. Here are just a few of the policy priorities the Christian Life Commission will be focused on in the upcoming session:

  • Ending the financial
... [continue]

Election Day provides opportunity to express citizenship

The Bible exhorts Christians to be good citizens while on earth (Romans 13:1-8). Voting is one of the foundational requirements to good citizenship. With Election Day quickly approaching it is important to head to the polls. We, as believers, should actively engage in understanding the policy issues affecting our communities and neighbors. We should vote in accordance to God's agenda for this world and not just on blind allegiance to a political party or person.

To that end, we should evaluate for ourselves, in accordance with... [continue]

From the lender's perspective – Leah Gonzalez, day 10

This is the 10th and final guest blog post in a series of 10 by Leah Gonzalez, a master's degree student in social work at the University of Texas in Austin.

Just like there are individuals behind each story of extraordinary debt caused by payday and auto title loan, individuals make up the industry, as well. It wouldn't be fair to disregard what members of the payday and auto title loan industry have said in defense of their business.

A major concern of payday and auto title loans is how long a borrower is in the debt cycle. The loans are... [continue]

Raising Arizona – Leah Gonzalez, day 9

This is the 9th guest blog post in a series of 10 by Leah Gonzalez, a master's degree student in social work at the University of Texas in Austin and a graduate of Howard Payne University.

Several states have banned payday and auto title lending. At the end of July 2010 Arizona joined these ranks – kind of. It's true; in 2010 Arizona enforced "Operation Sunset," which made it illegal to provide a payday loan. Part of this operation includes a limit of 36 percent interest on other consumer loans. Research from the Arizona Attorney General concluded... [continue]

The pros and cons of usury – Leah Gonzalez, day 8

This is the 8th guest blog post in a series of 10 by Leah Gonzalez, a master's degree student in social work at the University of Texas in Austin and a graduate of Howard Payne University.

The term used to describe illegally high interest rates applied to loans is "usury." Usury laws set caps for interest rates of consumer and commercial loans. Payday and auto title loans are considered consumer loans.

The Texas Finance Code sets strict rate and fee limits for various types of consumer loans, including auto title loans and payday loans,... [continue]

Finding the right alternative – Leah Gonzalez, day 7

This is the 7th guest blog post in a series of 10 by Leah Gonzalez, a master's degree student in social work at the University of Texas in Austin and a graduate of Howard Payne University.

It may not be difficult to imagine you're in a place where your next paycheck is too far off with a bill looming over your head. Financial constraints are nothing new to many of us, but fortunately many of us also have reliable support or resources available to help.

But what if you had no support? You didn't have parents, brothers, sisters, or friends... [continue]

Payday loans and blueberry pie – Leah Gonzalez, day 6

This is the 6th guest blog post in a series of 10 by Leah Gonzalez, a master's degree student in social work at the University of Texas in Austin and a graduate of Howard Payne University.

I've been doing a lot of talking about the issues surrounding payday and auto title loans. I've read articles, academic studies and just about anything related to the lenders and the consumers affected. I've done this research because I'm not able to give you a first-hand account of what it is like to be entrapped by a payday or auto title loan.

I want... [continue]

Money speeds away with car title loans – Leah Gonzalez, day 5

This is the 5th guest blog post in a series of 10 by Leah Gonzalez, a master's degree student in social work at the University of Texas in Austin and a graduate of Howard Payne University.

Auto title loans have the similar promised quick fix solutions of payday loans, and often the same potential to cause just as much financial instability. I may not have been very clear making distinctions between payday lending and auto title lending in my previous posts, so I want to give some fair time to this lending practice.

To receive one... [continue]

Texas cities pioneer lending regulations – Leah Gonzalez, day 3

This is the 3rd guest blog post in a series of 10 by Leah Gonzalez, a master's degree student in social work at the University of Texas in Austin.

Since the Texas legislature meets every other year a lot of work needs to be done during the interim. Payday and auto title lending policy is no different. Several cities throughout Texas have passed ordinances that take further measures to protect their residents from becoming entrapped in the payday and auto title lending cycle.

The most action has been taken by three major Texas... [continue]

The military and some (not so gentlemanly) lenders – Leah Gonzalez, day 2

This is the 2nd guest blog post in a series of 10 by Leah Gonzalez, a master's degree student in social work at the University of Texas in Austin.

Steven Graves and Christopher Peterson may not be the most recognizable names in academia, but for the purposes of this blog, they are my new higher-education heroes. Graves is a professor of geography at California State University, and Peterson teaches law at the University of Florida. In 2005, Graves and Peterson published a study in The Ohio State Law Journal titled,... [continue]

The payday lending loophole – Leah Gonzalez, day 1

Hello! My name is Leah Gonzalez, and I'm pursuing my master's degree in social work at the University of Texas in Austin. I graduated from Howard Payne University with a degree in social work. My family is originally from El Paso, and I grew up in San Antonio. I'll be writing this blog discussing various issues surrounding payday and auto title lending. Payday lending is a complex issue that's targeting the financial welfare of Texas families. I'll be updating this regularly leading up to and throughout Texas' legislative session. Thank... [continue]