Dan Patrick Invokes Bathroom Bill at Prayer Rally, Spars With Business Group Over Economic Impact

Attorney General Ken Paxton says Christian lawmakers are at "spiritual war, and your prayers are what make the difference in that."

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick speaks Monday during "A Call to Prayer for Texas" at the state Capitol.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick speaks Monday during “A Call to Prayer for Texas” at the state Capitol.  John Wright

After plugging his anti-transgender bathroom bill during a prayer rally on the Capitol steps, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick proclaimed victory Monday over economic arguments against the measure.

At a hastily called news conference Monday afternoon, Patrick highlighted a recent report from PolitiFact Texas, a media fact-checking service. On Friday, PolitiFact gave a “mostly false” rating to a Texas Association of Business (TAB) study that concluded that the bathroom bill could cost the state up to $8.5 billion and 185,000 jobs.

PolitiFact acknowledged that Senate Bill 6, by Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would be likely to result in some economic backlash, but the service questioned TAB’s figures largely because they are based on data from other states, such as Arizona and Indiana, where anti-LGBT bills either never became law or were later amended.

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Patrick seized upon the PolitiFact report, imploring reporters who wrote about what he called a “bogus” study to do follow-up stories.

“Fear-mongering is what that [TAB] report is about. There is no evidence whatsoever that the passage of Senate Bill 6 will have any economic impact in Texas,” Patrick said, adding that those who oppose the bathroom bill for economic reasons have “lost the argument.”

TAB President Chris Wallace told the Observer he was surprised by PolitiFact’s “mostly false” rating, the third-lowest out of six on the service’s “Truth-O-Meter.” But Wallace added there’s “no question” SB 6 would hurt the state’s economy.

“It’s just a matter of how much,” he said, noting that TAB’s study predicted the impact could be anywhere from $964 million to $8.5 billion over three years.

“If it’s a low range, or if it’s a high range — or who knows, maybe even more —  whatever that number is, is it worth the risk?” Wallace said. “We don’t think so.”

Wallace also pointed to a letter to North Carolina lawmakers last week, warning that the NCAA could move all championships out of the Tarheel State for the next six years if the General Assembly doesn’t repeal a similar bathroom bill passed in 2016. San Antonio is scheduled to host the Final Four in 2018, bringing in an estimated $243 million for the Alamo City.

In a statement, TAB said it “doesn’t need studies alone to prove the negative impact of this unnecessary legislation,” referring to SB 6.

“The hard data exists in real time and in dramatically quantifiable ways when you look to North Carolina and Indiana today,” the group said.

Earlier Monday, Patrick referenced the bathroom bill during an event titled “A Call to Prayer for Texas,” which served as a kickoff for the newly formed Texas Legislative Prayer Caucus.

During a sermon-like speech in front of hundreds who gathered for the revival-style event on the south steps of the Capitol, Patrick repeatedly cited Bible verses and said he prays for those on “the secular left” who “want us to be defeated.”

Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, introduces Attorney General Ken Paxton during "A Call to Prayer for Texas" on Monday at the state Capitol.
Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, introduces Attorney General Ken Paxton during “A Call to Prayer for Texas” on Monday at the state Capitol.  John Wright

“They don’t want prayer in public schools, they’re not pro-life, they see nothing wrong with boys and girls showering together in the 10th grade, or a man being in a women’s bathroom,” Patrick said. “But how do we see them? If we are true Christians we pray for them, because all of us have been in the darkness.”

The Legislative Prayer Caucus, modeled after the 12-year-old Congressional Prayer Caucus, was formed to “provide an opportunity to seek God’s will together, to uphold our nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage and to protect the right of Americans to openly pray and trust in God,” according to its website.

But progressive groups warned that the Prayer Caucus — co-chaired by two of the Legislature’s most socially conservative members — appeared to be a front for pushing anti-LGBT and anti-choice legislation under the guise of “religious freedom.”

“It would be a good thing if politicians stopped using faith as a weapon to divide Texans and hurt people they don’t like,” said Dan Quinn, a spokesperson for the Texas Freedom Network. “But that apparently is too much to ask of a lot of politicians in this Legislature.”

Patrick was joined at the event by Attorney General Ken Paxton and dozens of other state lawmakers, nearly all Republicans. Paxton, whose wife Angela sang both the national anthem and “God Bless America,” told the crowd that Bible-believing lawmakers are “not here fighting other people.”

“We’re here fighting spiritual forces,” Paxton said. “This is a spiritual war, and your prayers are what make the difference in that.”

John Wright is a freelance journalist based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Published at 6:17 pm CST
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