The Supreme Court of Texas ruled Those five citizens can fine-tune and continue their lawsuit against the city on Friday, but most judges agreed they didn’t show enough of how the city violated the new law.
Nicknamed the “Save Chick-fil-A” invoice while still traveling through the Texas Legislature, the law says Texas governments cannot “take any adverse action” against individuals for their contributions to religious groups. It authorizes anyone alleging an “actual or imminent violation” to sue the accused government entity.
Despite the colloquial name, the bill went into effect months after the city of San Antonio had already voted to remove Chick-fil-A from the airport. Accordingly, since the city council’s vote was legal at the time, the five citizens allege that the city continued to actively exclude Chick-fil-A from the airport past the effective date of the law in September 2019.
The majority of the Texas Supreme Court was unconvinced.
“All of the factual allegations describing the City’s actions relate to conduct that occurred at the March 21, 2019 City Council meeting, well before the law’s effective date of September 1, 2019. There is an assertion that the City’s alleged violation is continuing in nature,” the majority opinion bed.
“But the petition does not allege any facts to support this assertion; nowhere does it describe any “action” by the City after September 1, 2019, that could constitute a violation, as required by law.
However, despite insufficient evidence that San Antonio punished Chick-fil-A for the company’s religious beliefs after the new law took effect, the court gave citizens the opportunity to represent their case.
“The petitioners’ argument does not allege sufficient facts to support their contention that the city took adverse action on or after September 1, 2019. But the petition also does not affirmatively deny jurisdiction,” reads the statement. majority opinion.
Judges Jimmy Blacklock and John Devine agreed the Citizens’ case could proceed, but said they shouldn’t have to show concrete discrimination that has already taken place just to get an injunction against the city. Instead, the two judges wrote, citizens need only show a credible threat of religious discrimination in the future.
“The problem with the Court’s approach, in my view, is that the City Council vote was not an isolated act of discrimination that had come and gone by the time Chapter 2400 came into effect. Instead, the vote established a forward-looking policy under which city staff were asked to pursue the exclusion of Chick-fil-A from the airport concession contract,” said writes Blacklock.
“Courts cannot order the government not to do something it has already done, but they can order it not to continue to do such things in the future. It follows that plaintiffs seeking prospective injunctions, as these plaintiffs do, must allege a credible threat to the future enforcement they wish to impose. »
Additionally, even though the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill became effective law after the City Council voted, Blacklock and Devine suggested that the vote may have violated existing constitutional protections on religious liberty.
Notably, Chick-fil-A itself is not a party to this case.