Texas Attorney General (and indicted securities fraud suspect) Ken Paxton has hired fundamentalist activist Jeff Mateer as his top assistant:
In Texas it is just business as usual to hire zealots and ideologues and put them in positions where they are supposed to be working for the people, all the people (an not just the ones, like Betty Bowers, who are so close to Jesus that they share a bank account). Nothing surprising here in a state where the State Board of Education has promoted “intelligent design” over science and David Barton’s preposterous fantasies over historical scholarship.
The most interesting bit of the article is where Mateer challenged students to cite verbatim the part of the U.S. Constitution that establishes separation of church and state. He offered a $100 prize to the one who could. Let me try: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” I just checked to see if I got it right, and I did. Do I get my $100 now?
“Respecting” is the interesting word in this passage. In this context it means “concerning” or “relating to” or “in reference to.” In this context, therefore, the word is quite vague. I assume that the Founders chose their words carefully. If they had only meant to say that the U.S. would have no official, established religion or denomination, then that is what they would have said. Instead they intentionally left if vague. Why? Probably because they could see that the U.S. unfortunately contains individuals like Mr. Mateer–those of theocratic propensities who have no problem with using the prestige, power, or authority of government to promote sectarian ends. With people like Mateer, outlawing de jure establishment of religion will not stop them from establishing a de facto theocracy. Perhaps if Mr. Mateer and his ilk had their way we would not officially be called the Baptist States of America, but every government office would have the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes; Bible readings and Christian indoctrination would occur in all public schools; all public property would have crosses all year and Christmas and Easter displays in season; creationism would be taught in science classes; LGBT people and Muslims would be second-class citizens; and Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security would be replaced by “faith based” charities. The authors of the Constitution, in their wisdom, sought to prevent anything even respecting (i.e. concerning or relating to) an establishment of religion, whether de jure or de facto.
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