Religion

The new assistant Attorney General for Texas thinks separation between church and state is a hoax

The Constitution deliberately separates religion from state affairs. However, the newest Assistant Attorney General for the state of Texas disagrees with the document he is sworn to uphold.

Image via screen grab

Jeff Mateer is an appointee of Attorney General Ken Paxton who, despite the law and the Supreme Court ruling regarding the legalization of nationwide marriage equality, told Texas county clerks that discrimination against gay couples on the grounds of religion is perfectly acceptable under his watch. This came to light during the now-infamous Kim Davis fiasco — the Kentucky County Clerk who made a martyr of herself by going to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Paxton said that “numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs.”

Paxton goes on to say of his decision to appoint Mateer:

“The addition of Jeff Mateer as First Assistant Attorney General will have immediate impact on the agency with positive long-term effects that will strengthen our work for Texas for generations,” stated Ken Paxton. “Jeff brings a wealth of real-world experience as a seasoned trial and appellate attorney with broad and varied litigation experience spanning over 25 years of legal practice.”

Mateer is of the same opinion that Paxton is, and says of the separation of church and state while speaking to college students:

“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.”

Here is a video of those statements:

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. dougindeap

    March 12, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Mateer’s parroting of this often heard fool’s errand (i.e., show me the magic words) is rendered all the funnier by the joker’s supposition that his audience is more ignorant than he is. That the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, to some who once mistakenly supposed it was there and, upon learning of their own error, reckon they’ve solved a Constitutional mystery. In the Constitution, the founders did not merely say there should be separation of church and state, rather they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of “We the people” (not a deity), (2) according that government limited, enumerated powers, (3) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (4) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (5), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day (by which governments generally were grounded in some appeal to god(s)), the founders’ avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment, which affirmatively constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The absence of the metaphor commonly used to name one of the Constitution’s principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, federalism) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

  2. labman57

    March 13, 2016 at 9:43 am

    The Bible is like a Rorschach Test — its allegorical accounts are open to a wide range of interpretations … which usually tells us more about the reader’s personal beliefs and prejudices than about anything actually written in the biblical passages.

    In any case, people who believe that Biblical law supersedes the laws of the land have no business working in the public sector … especially positions in elected office and law enforcement.

  3. Tom Moe

    March 14, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    That is a nice, “sort of truth.” No one is saying that the government is based upon religious truth. However, it is loaded with religious truth. The First Ammendment keeps government from establishing a religion. It was never in the goal of Founding Fathers to gag religion or its impact upon government. People are allowed to vote their values, secular or religious. It is what we have always done.

  4. Tom Moe

    March 14, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    If the Bible is like a Rorschach Test, you have given us your view. However, don’t impose your view on the rest of us, please.

  5. Tom Moe

    March 14, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Do me a favor and read the Declaration of Independence. By what authority do the Founding Fathers claim the right to separate from England?

  6. dougindeap

    March 16, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    What you have in mind when you speak of government not based upon yet loaded with religious truth I do not know.

    With respect to not gagging religion or allowing people to vote their values, there is no real dispute. The Constitution’s separation of church and state, as applied by the courts, does not gag religion and allows people to vote their values. It is important to distinguish between “individual” and “government” action and speech about religion since the Constitution protects the former and constrains the latter. The First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please.

    Nor does the constitutional separation of church and state prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies. The principle, in this context, merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion; in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature. A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect.

    Wake Forest University has published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you. http://divinity.wfu.edu/religion-and-public-affairs/joint-statement/

  7. dougindeap

    March 16, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    What you have in mind by your cryptic note about the Declaration of Independence is not clear either. In any event, it bears observing that while some draw various meanings from one or another phrase in the Declaration of Independence and then try to connect that meaning to the Constitution, the effort is largely baseless. Important as the Declaration is in our history, it did not operate to bring about independence (that required winning a war), nor did it found a government, nor did it even create any law, and it certainly did not say or do anything that somehow dictated the meaning of a Constitution adopted twelve years later. The colonists issued the Declaration not to do any of that, but rather to politically explain and justify the move to independence that was already well underway. Nothing in the Constitution depends on anything said in the Declaration. Nor does anything said in the Declaration purport to limit or define the government later formed by the free people of the former colonies. Nor could it even if it purported to do so. Once independent, the people of the former colonies were free to choose whether to form a collective government at all and, if so, whatever form of government they deemed appropriate. They were not somehow limited by anything said in the Declaration. Sure, they could take its words as inspiration and guidance if, and to the extent, they chose–or they could not. They could have formed a theocracy if they wished–or, as they ultimately chose, a government founded on the power of the people (not a deity) and separated from religion.

  8. Tom Moe

    March 18, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Nothing cryptic about the Declaration of Independence. The issue was that the public was not very sold on a separation from England. The issue was, “By what authority do you claim to have validity in separation? The answer was, “By the authority of God.” that emphasis went a long way in selling the Revolution. The US government recognized the importance of religion and went a long way to empower it. The only part of separation was that the state not support any one religious group.

  9. Tom Moe

    March 18, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Of course, one can argue that there is only truth. Religious truth is no different from any other type of truth.

  10. Robs Sym

    March 19, 2016 at 6:51 am

    “However, don’t impose your view on the rest of us, please,”

    How succinctly you state the desire of those who oppose the mixing of governance with religion. Believe what you wish, live your own life accordingly, but do not attempt to govern others’ lives by your belief’s tenets; inherent in freedom is freedom of choice.

  11. Tom

    March 21, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Just stating that it goes both ways. We are free to vote our religious values and you are free not to do so.

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