“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
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.
Religious-right activists have been chipping away at the wall separating church and state for decades. Now we hear elected officials who are just as shameful in their attacks on this fundamental protection for religious freedom in America. Indeed, their own words reveal a depth of support for religious freedom that’s almost paper thin. Here’s what we heard from the right on this issue in 2015. (Click here for previous posts on what we heard from the right in 2015.)
“We declare this state to be the sovereign territory of Jesus Christ.”
– A pastor at speaking at the religious right’s Texas Faith and Family Day during the legislative session in Austin.
“[R]esolve to withstand the onslaught of moral evil and the overreach of federal judges who ignore the will of the people of our great state.”
– John Greene, pastor of Lufkin Harmony Hill Baptist Church, offering a prayer to open a daily session of the Texas House of Representatives in February. Politicized prayers like this one led some House members to insist that those asked to pray at the beginning of each day’s session respect the diverse religious and political beliefs of the members (and of Texans generally).… Read More
With the holidays upon us, religious righters and the politicians who pander to them are looking for any excuse to scream about a mythical “war on Christmas” and dream up new “threats” to religious freedom. The latest example comes to us from the city of Orange in Southeast Texas.
Orange city officials have decided to remove a Christmas nativity scene from city hall because an organization called Orange County Atheists wanted also to post a banner nearby. The atheists’ banner doesn’t attack Christmas or religion at all. It doesn’t even object to the nativity scene. The banner (below) simply extends good wishes to people who celebrate other holidays (including Christmas) this time of year:
But some folks in Orange are offended that a public building would (gasp) recognize the holidays of various faiths and traditions along with Christmas. Here’s what a city spokesperson said in announcing the rejection of the request to post the banner:
Based on this request, the City reviewed current case law. Supreme Court decisions have tried to address this question in an array of decisions, but there is not a clear case that gives affirmative direction to displaying the Nativity scene. This makes it difficult to… Read More
By Rabbi Neal Katz
As a rabbi, my faith is supremely important in my life. That’s why it’s painful for me to see religion used as a tool to harm or discriminate.
But it happens. And sadly here in Texas, some of our state leaders are even encouraging this misuse of religion.
Today, I’m happy to tell you about a new initiative TFN and the ACLU of Texas are launching to identify and address these issues. We have created a website to collect the stories of religious discrimination in our state to better understand the scope of this problem. All information on the website will remain private. If a government official or private business in Texas has used religion to discriminate against you or someone you know, we want to hear your story.
Nobody should ever be turned away from a business or government office, refused service or evicted from their home simply because they don’t share another person’s religious beliefs or because of who they are or whom they love. That discrimination distorts the real meaning of religious liberty.