The Texas Freedom Network supports the constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state, which protects the right of all Americans to practice the faith of their choice, or none at all, free of government interference.

Unfortunately, efforts to knock down that wall are a constant in Texas. Politicians and activists have attempted to impose their views on others on issues like abortion and access to contraception. And in a distortion of the principle of religious freedom, far-right groups have supported legislative efforts to allow individuals to use religion as an excuse to ignore laws they might not like and even as a weapon to discriminate against others.

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The Latest on Church & State

New Texas AG’s Office Appointee Rejects Church-State Separation

“I’ll hold up my hundred-dollar bill and say, ‘for the first student who can cite me the provision in the Constitution that guarantees the separation of church and state verbatim, I’ll give this hundred dollar bill. … It’s not there. … The protections of the First Amendment protect us from government, not to cause government to persecute us because of our religious beliefs.”

That’s Jeff Mateer, the newly appointed First Assistant Attorney General of Texas. Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Mateer’s appointment to the post on Wednesday. Mateer replaces Chip Roy, who has joined a super PAC supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.

It’s not surprising that Paxton, who won election with the support of religious-right groups and activists, would appoint a foot soldier in the culture wars who rejects the key constitutional principle of separation of church and state (and employs the persecution rhetoric common on the religious right now). Mateer had been serving as general counsel for First Liberty Institute, a Plano-based litigation group that advances the religious right’s agenda in the courts.

The lawyers at First Liberty Institute (formerly Free Market Foundation and then Liberty Institute), are the equivalent of political ambulance chasers. If you’re a social conservative who feels persecuted because,… Read More

Using Religion as a Weapon: The Truth Behind the Right’s Cynical Pro-Discrimination Campaign

It's been clear to observers over the last year that opponents of LGBT equality have cynically shifted their rhetoric from attacking same-sex marriage to promoting "religious liberty" as an excuse to discriminate. Now the website Five Thirty Eight details this shift. Read More

Today’s hearing of the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee was billed as an examination of how to protect religious liberty, but it was really about what we expected it would be: justifying discrimination against LGBT people. In fact, halfway through the hearing, it became clear that religious-right activists and committee members were especially interested in relitigating last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

One after another, religious-righters and other conservative activists went before the committee to make a variety of argument that, boiled down, were essentially the following:

They have the to ignore laws that offend their religious beliefs. They have the right use their religious beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people. The U.S. Supreme Court is a tyrannical institution that, particularly on the issue of marriage, has demonstrated no respect for God, country and Constitution.

If you’re interested, you can watch an archived video recording of the hearing here. The hearing went from 9 a.m. to nearly 12:30.

Shortly before the hearing, the Texas Freedom Network and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas held a press briefing at the Texas Capitol to talk about real threats to religious liberty in… Read More

Advocates at State Affairs Hearing Push Back Against Arguments That Anti-Discrimination Laws Threaten Religious Liberty

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AUSTIN – Religious and civil liberties groups today warned Texas senators that religious freedom has never meant the right to use faith as a weapon to discriminate against others or to ignore laws that everyone else must obey.

Representatives from the various groups spoke at a press conference before a Texas Senate State Affairs Committee hearing on religious freedom today. They countered arguments that individuals and businesses should be able to use their religious beliefs to opt out of or simply refuse to obey anti-discrimination measures and other laws that protect everyone. And they pointed to real threats to religious freedom that should command the committee’s attention.

Kathy Miller, president, Texas Freedom Network “Religious freedom is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans. But it’s deeply dishonest when politicians radically redefine that freedom so that individuals and businesses can use religion to discriminate or impose their personal religious beliefs on others. In America we all have the right to equal treatment under the law, regardless of who we are or what we believe.”

Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director,… Read More

So Is Ted Cruz Running for President or Priest?

Here is Heidi Cruz on Wednesday, putting husband Ted Cruz’s race for president in, well, godly terms:

“When I thought about doing it for our country, it became very clear to me that our family must be in this race. We are at a cultural crossroads in our country, and if we can be in this race to show this country the face of the God that we serve—this Christian God that we serve is the foundation of our country. Our country was built on Judeo-Christian values. We are a nation of freedom of religion, but the God of Christianity is the God of freedom, of individual liberty, of choice and of consequence.”

So her family is selflessly showing the country “the face of God”? They think highly of themselves, don’t they?

It also seems clear that both Cruzes suffer from a fundamental misunderstanding of what religious liberty really means. Their conception is strikingly different from how the nation’s founders saw that freedom.

The audio clip of Heidi Cruz’s comments is available at rightwingwatch.org.… Read More

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