Tag Archives: religious liberty

Judges seek permission to violate their oaths of office

Two Texas judges, Brian K. Umphress in Jack County and Diane Hensley in McLennan County, are suing the state because their religious faith compels them to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

Hmm. OK. Let me pose this question: What part of the oath of office you took that says you shall obey all the laws of the state and be faithful to the U.S. Constitution don’t you understand? 

These individuals both swore to uphold the secular laws of the counties they were elected to govern. The oath demands that they are faithful to those laws. It makes no mention of their religious beliefs or gives them any room to say, “Well, I’ll obey only those laws that do not conflict with my faith.”

This is nonsense.

Both of these judges are empowered by the Texas Constitution to perform marriage ceremonies. The Constitution, though, does not require them to perform every single service that shows up on their agenda.

These individuals have sued the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has sanctioned them for refusing to perform the duties to which they swore their oath. The Dallas Morning News reports, by the way, that even though Umphress presides over the Jack County Commissioners Court, he is not a “law judge.”

Justice of the Peace Hensley also is empowered to perform marriages. She has refused for the same reason that Umphress cites. I should tell her the same thing: Such empowerment is not a requirement.

Both of these folks can hand those duties off to other duly empowered county officials if they cannot in good faith perform that duty.

I also need to remind them both — although they know it already — that the U.S. Supreme Court, citing its belief in the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution, has declared gay marriage to be legal in all 50 states. 

If the laws of the land do not comport with these judges’ religious beliefs, then they shouldn’t be serving in their respective public offices.

Texas AG to California: Butt out of our affairs

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This item was published initially on KETR-FM’s website, ketr.org.

I am inclined as a general rule to oppose Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s world view on most matters.

However, on the issue of seeking to remove one state’s non-essential travel ban to Texas because of our state’s strong stand in favor of “religious liberty,” I believe he is onto something.

What constitutes “essential travel”? I suppose one example would be in the event of a natural disaster emergency, in which firefighters or other first responders travel from California to Texas to lend aid.

Here’s the issue: In 2017, Texas legislators enacted a law that, among other things, allows foster-care agencies to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children. California responded by banning non-essential publicly funded travel from California to Texas, citing what California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called a discriminatory policy against gay Americans. It falls under the religious liberty doctrine, of which Paxton has become an aggressive advocate.

At one level, Becerra has a point. I don’t like the Texas law either. I believe – on this point – that gay couples are fully capable of being loving parents to children who need a home. As one who believes homosexuality is a matter of genetics rather than upbringing or of choice, the Texas law looks to me to be an overreach.

However, so is the California response to this state enacting a law that comports with its residents’ generally conservative world view.

Paxton has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene on Texas’ behalf. He is asking the highest court in the land to overturn the California travel ban, saying that California is trying to police how other states conduct their affairs.

“California is attempting to punish Texans for respecting the right of conscience for foster care and adoption workers,” Paxton said.

As the Texas Tribune reports, this latest salvo is just the latest in a long-running feud between the states, with California and Texas being the country’s top Democratic and Republican strongholds, respectively. Do you remember how former Gov. Rick Perry would venture to California to lure businesses from that state to Texas? Critics of that effort – and I was one of them – called it “job poaching.”

Paxton – who is in the midst of another fight involving his own indictment for securities fraud – has now joined the battle.

Texas is one of 11 states that have received travel bans from California, which to Paxton’s eyes is acting like a state run by busy-bodies. One of those states, Oklahoma, responded by banning non-essential travel to California from Oklahoma. I suppose Texas could respond accordingly.

Paxton is likely to have a friendly audience if the high court decides to take up the case. It has a solid conservative majority. Yes, it’s only 5-4 at the moment, but the five conservative justices – with the possible exception of Chief Justice John Roberts – are inclined to stand solidly behind GOP policymakers’ point of view.

I will say that I think Paxton makes a solid argument that California need not intrude into the affairs of other states governed by politicians who don’t hue to that state’s political leaning.

Do your job, Mr. Texas AG

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sworn an oath to defend, among other things, the U.S. Constitution, which Texans still must obey under the law.

The Constitution, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, has an equal-protection clause that says all Americans are entitled to be treated equally. That means gay couples, men and women, who choose to marry some of the same gender.

So, when a justice of the peace refuses to follow the law, gets sanctioned by the Texas Commission on Judicial  Conduct, and then gets sued by the JP for allegedly violating her religious liberty, then the AG is bound by law to defend the TCJC. That’s how I read it.

Paxton ain’t doing it.

Oh, no. He is siding with the justice of the peace, Dianne Hensley, for refusing to preside over same-sex marriages, citing her religious convictions, which endorse only marriages between one man and one woman.

But wait! The SCOTUS has determined that gay marriage is legal in this country. That includes Texas, doesn’t it? Aren’t we part of the United States of America, the nation governed by a secular Constitution?

I am all in favor of religious liberty. This is just my interpretation, though, but I always have considered religious liberty to have boundaries. People are free to worship as they please, or not worship a deity. Religious liberty grants them that right. However, public officials who take an oath to follow the laws of the land have responsibilities to adhere strictly to that oath.

The JP is wrong to deny marrying individuals on the basis of their gender. The AG is wrong to refuse a legally constituted state agency that has ruled appropriately against the JP.

Just do your job, Mr. Attorney General.

Texas AG speaks to the faithful


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been quiet lately … since his indictment in Collin County on charges of securities fraud.

The case hasn’t yet been settled. Paxton, though, spoke to a conservative political group, Texas Values, and asserted that Christians are being “marginalized” in public life.

I believe I’ll disagree with him on that.

Paxton calls for Christians to seek public office

I agree with the attorney general that people of faith should run. They should rely on their faith to inform their decisions. I cannot question either of those two notions that Paxton put forward.

Then again, I welcome people without faith to run as well. This country belongs to them as much as it belongs to believers.

Moreover, I have to draw the line on the idea that the so-called “marginalization” is anything new.

The U.S. Constitution has been quite clear on the role that faith should play in government. The founders knew what they were doing when they omitted the very word “religion” in the document. The only reference comes in Article VI, which declares that “no religious test” shall be applied to candidates running for public office.

Isn’t that crystal clear? It is to me.

Not to Paxton, apparently.

According to the Texas Tribune: “It’s important to understand opponents of religious liberty aren’t going away anytime soon,” said Paxton, a Republican, as he spoke to a crowd of about 100 people gathered at Pflugerville’s First Baptist Church. “We must refuse to be marginalized in the name of political correctness.”

Political correctness? What’s he talking about?

Religious liberty is a comprehensive term. It means different things to different people. To some, it means that we should be free to practice whatever faith we wish. To others, sadly, it means believing only in the faith they worship, as many Muslim-Americans have learned over the years when they encounter protests from non-Muslims.

And to even more Americans, the term “religious liberty” means being guaranteed the right to not worship any faith at all.

I do not believe what Paxton said in Pflugerville that there’s been an “ugly and frightening turn of events” that turns on people of faith who seek and hold public office.

If he’s referring to that Kentucky county clerk who refuses to grant marriage licenses to gay couples — and I suspect that’s Paxton’s point of reference — I’ll just remind him that she took an oath to serve all the residents of her county.

Even those who are gay.


No place for religious bigotry


U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., is one of just two Muslim members of Congress.

He has just posted this item on social media. I feel compelled to share it here.

He is answering two leading Republican presidential candidates’ recent assertions about those who practice the Islamic faith.

Ellison writes:

“The freedom of religion is a founding principle of our nation. Our Constitution gives this right to all Americans – including elected officials. For Ben Carson, Donald Trump, or any other Republican politician to suggest that someone of any faith is unfit for office is out of touch with who we are as a people. It’s unimaginable that the leading GOP presidential candidates are resorting to fear mongering to benefit their campaigns, and every American should be disturbed that these national figures are engaging in and tolerating blatant acts of religious bigotry.”

I believe I’ll let Rep. Ellison’s words stand on their own.


Religious intolerance is alive and kicking

liberty religion

The fellow who stood up in that Donald Trump town hall event and made those disparaging remarks about Muslims brings to mind a serious hypocrisy that fuels so much of today’s political debate.

You’ll recall the guy who said that Muslims present a problem in this country and he asked Trump how should the federal government “get rid” of those who adhere to Islam. Trump, of course, didn’t condemn the remarks as being bigoted and hateful.

It struck me, though, that so many on the right and far right keep saying two mutually exclusive things.

They keep harping on “religious liberty,” and accuse those on the left of “declaring war on Christians and Christianity.” The leader of that anti-Christian movement, in their eyes, is the president of the United States, who many of them believe is a closet Muslim.

Well, “religious liberty” is written into the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It’s a cherished civil right that — as I understand it — means that all Americans are free to practice whatever religion they wish.

That includes those who believe in Islam.

Why, then, do some — maybe many, for all I know — keep insisting, as that Trump town-hall yahoo said the other evening, that Muslims need to be shut down, silenced, denied their basic right to practice their religion?

That is precisely what that guy said, to applause from the rest of the crowd who had come to listen to Trump.

Do they believe in “religious liberty” for all … or just those who believe as they do?


14th Amendment means what it says

Well, it’s been an Earth-shaking couple of days at the Supreme Court of the United States, don’t you think?

First, the court upholds the Affordable Care Act, guaranteeing health insurance for all Americans.

Then today comes a ruling that makes gay marriage legal in every state in the Union.


Today’s ruling is going to cause considerable apoplexy among political conservatives, some of whom now are saying the Supreme Court overstepped its bounds. Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the dissenters in today’s ruling, said the nation is now being governed by a majority of justices.

Let’s hold on here.

The ruling tosses out statewide bans on gay marriage on the basis of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the document we use to establish a governing framework for the entire nation.

States’ rights? I believe the federal Constitution trumps those rights. The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment means what it says, that all citizens are guaranteed the right to “equal protection under the law,” which means that if gay citizens want to marry someone of the same gender, they are entitled under the law to do exactly that.

Is the battle over? Not even close.

It’s going to shift to the issue of religious liberty, where individuals will argue that their faith and their religious opposition to same-sex marriage also is guaranteed under the First Amendment. Some Republican candidates for president are calling for a constitutional amendment to make same-sex marriage illegal; good luck with that, as the 14th Amendment stands as the protector of all Americans’ rights to equal treatment under the law.

The court has done what it had to do. It has affirmed what the U.S. Constitution declares in guaranteeing every American the right to marry who they love — no matter what.