Federal Judge Nominee Rejects Separation of Church and State

Theocracy alert: Trump’s new federal judge nominee is a dangerous religious extremist who rejects the separation of church and state.

Earlier today President Trump nominated Jeff Mateer to be a District Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman division. Currently Mateer is the First Assistant Attorney General of Texas.

Calling Matteer’s nomination to the bench a “gift to the anti-LGBT and religious-right activists who have supported him (Trump) since the campaign,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said:

This is a clear a signal that President Trump intends to make our federal courts the place where civil rights go to die.

Miller has good reason to be concerned. Before he began working for the Texas Attorney General’s office, Mateer spent years with the prominent, religious-right, anti-LGBT litigation group First Liberty Legal.

Mateer served as general counsel and executive vice president of First Liberty, which describes itself as “the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious liberty for all Americans.”

Remember, when conservatives talk about “religious liberty,” they usually mean special rights and protections for conservative Christian bigots. Mateer is no exception to this rule.

Perhaps more alarming than his open bigotry in the name of conservative Christian values, Mateer also rejects the separation of church and state.

Speaking at a conference at the University of St. Thomas in Houston in 2013, Mateer explains what he tells students about the separation of church and state:

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.

In other words, Mateer deceives students, feeding them discredited anti-American propaganda in service to his conservative Christian values.

In a superficial, and shallow sense, Mateer is correct – the words “separation of church and state” are not found in the U.S. Constitution. However, Mateer is being disingenuous when he says “It’s not there.”

In fact, there is no question that the sentiment and meaning behind the phrase is contained within the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The actual phrase “separation of church and state” is derived from a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper soon thereafter. The following is an excerpt from Jefferson’s famous Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association:

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

In the letter, Jefferson makes clear that the separation of church and state is contained within the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Yet despite the irrefutable historical and constitutional evidence, Christian extremists like Mateer continue to deny the the separation of church and state.

Bottom line: Rejecting the separation of church and state is either willful ignorance or deliberate deceit. As such, anyone who rejects the separation of church and state is simply not qualified to serve as a federal judge. Full stop.

 Federal Judge Nominee Jeff Mateer Rejects Separation of Church and State (Image via Screen Grab)
Federal Judge Nominee Jeff Mateer Rejects Separation of Church and State
(Image via Screen Grab)
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