Trump Nominates Church/State Separation Denier for Federal Judgeship September 8, 2017

Trump Nominates Church/State Separation Denier for Federal Judgeship

Among Donald Trump‘s many nominees to federal judgeships yesterday was Jeff Mateer to be a U.S. District Judge in the Eastern District of Texas.

Mateer used to work First Liberty Institute (formerly known as Liberty Institute), the conservative legal defense group. The problem isn’t (merely) that he’s a conservative judge. It’s that he doesn’t give a damn about church/state separation.

In 2013, during a conference at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, he even challenged students to find the words “separation of church and state” in the Constitution:


… what I often do when I speak to children in schools, even college students… I’ll hold up my hundred-dollar bill and I’ll 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 were to protect us from government, not to cause government to persecute us because of our religious beliefs.

You know what other words don’t appear in the Constitution? God and abortion. But Mateer and his conservative colleagues have no problem using the document to promote their faith and strike down women’s rights.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment has consistently been used by judges, up and down the line, to say the government can’t favor one religion over another or faith over non-faith.

That means what Mateer is really saying is that he plans to be an activist judge who doesn’t give a damn about precedent. He wants to create laws from the bench that favor conservative Christians. (Judicial activism, after all, is only a problem when liberals are accused of doing it.)

Among the many cases Mateer worked on during his time at First Liberty was one involving cheerleaders at Kountze High School, a story we covered extensively on this site. Those public school cheerleaders wanted to hold up banners with Bible verses on them during football games. Critics argued that, since the cheerleaders were representing the school, they couldn’t promote religion while on the field. The substance of that case was never resolved since the district eventually changed its policies to allow such banners, but Mateer was firmly on the side of letting the cheerleaders (and therefore the school) promote Christianity at football games.

And Mateer will now, almost certainly, be appointed to a position of even more power.

That’s what happens when Republicans win elections.

(via Religion Clause)

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