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Paxton’s hack hire

What else do you expect?

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton named Jeff Mateer as his new first assistant earlier this month, conservatives lauded him for a legal background that’s highlighted by his work on religious-liberty cases.

But Mateer’s background is drawing fire from those who champion gay rights and church-state separation, particularly since the Republican attorney general’s record already includes advising clerks that they could cite their faith as a reason to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Mateer isn’t backing away from views that prompt those concerns, saying in a Friday statement to the Express-News, “It’s vitally important to ensure that the state is prohibited from interfering with the free exercise of religion and I look forward to defending these liberties in my new role.”

He quoted the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist’s description of a wall of separation between church and state as a “misleading metaphor.”

Robert Salcido Jr., president of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 22198 in San Antonio, wrote in an open letter to Paxton that Mateer’s appointment “presents the appearance the Texas Attorney General is moving the church into a public office. It further suggests your office is setting a course targeting the LGBTQ citizens of Texas to deny our civil rights gains.”

The council – which focuses on fostering positive communication between the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and Latino communities – “will monitor his actions and when necessary take appropriate legal action to protect our community,” Salcido wrote. “We will also ensure that the broader community around the state that is committed to extending civil rights to all Texans is informed of your office’s actions.”

The Texas Freedom Network, which describes its mission as monitoring the “far right,” and Americans United for Separation of Church and State said Mateer made an alarming comment during a 2013 speech.

“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,” he said then, according to the network.

Kathy Miller, network president, said in a statement last week that it is “deeply troubling to see the irresponsible appointment of a foot soldier in the culture wars who has explicitly argued that this key constitutional principle protecting religious freedom in America is essentially a myth.”

The Observer reported on this last week. Look, we know who and what Ken Paxton is, and we know what he’s about. All he cares about are primary voters and making sure his conservative credentials are sufficiently burnished to ensure that none of his colleagues feel the need to distance themselves from him. It’s the main thing he’s good at. TFN has more.

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