Has the Texas Attorney General’s Office Become a Tentacle of a Religious-Right Group?

It’s beginning to look like the Texas Attorney General’s Office is no longer working just for the people of Texas. Under Attorney General Ken Paxton, the office seems to be carrying water now for religious-right interest groups — especially the Plano-based litigation group First Liberty Institute, which rejects separation of church and state.

The El Paso Times reports that the AG’s office has filed a court brief supporting an El Paso pastor sued over his efforts to recall Mayor John Cook and two City Council members in 2011. The recall election effort came after the City Council passed (for a second time) an ordinance providing benefits to the domestic partners of city employees. Cook, who is no longer mayor, claims in his lawsuit that Bishop Tom Brown of Word of Life Church and others in a group called El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values violated the law in their campaign for the recall election. Brown is also the founder of Tom Brown Ministries, which has been designated as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The El Paso Times has more details about the lawsuit’s allegations, but here’s the key thing: the AG’s office under Greg Abbott refused to intervene in the case in 2011. But… Read More

Paxton Deputy: Words in the Law Matter, Except When They Don’t

Jeff Mateer, who was recently hired as a top deputy of indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, doesn’t believe there is such a thing as church-state separation. When he has spoken at schools or colleges, he has offered $100 to anyone who can point to where “separation of church and state” is mentioned in the Constitution.

“It’s not there,” he likes to say.

It’s odd, then, that when it comes to the law that required Paxton to offer to the general public the opportunity to apply for Mateer’s job, Mateer wants you to stop focusing so much on the letter of the law.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Paxton was required by state law to post Mateer’s position publicly if outside candidates were under consideration. Paxton didn’t post Mateer’s position nor did he publicly post the position of his new communications director Marc Rylander, who was previously a pastor at Paxton’s church in Plano.

But Mateer says that’s all cool. From the DMN article:

Mateer told The News that Paxton’s office believes the law allows the attorney general to appoint “people who are at the level of deputy and above.”

While… Read More

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller is warning that this week’s appointment of a prominent political activist to a key position in the Attorney General’s Office threatens religious freedom in Texas. Read More

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

Sophie Novack

Today's the last day of trial on TX law mandating burial/cremation of remains after abortions or miscarriages across the state. Catch up on some of what's happened in court here: texasobserver.org/as… And on what the law could look like: texasobserver.org/in… #txlege #SB8

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