Texas AG to Protect Religious Freedoms of Public Officials in Wake of Supreme Court Ruling


In 2002, Texas Supreme Court Associate Justice Greg Abbott was elected the state’s Attorney General under then Governor Rick Perry. During Abbott’s tenure as the top cop/lawyer for the state, he constantly stood up to protect the constitutional rights of Texans. He fought against measures to impose unconstitutional gun laws and laws that stripped Texans of their freedoms of speech and religion.

In 2014, Abbott ran for the Governorship of Texas that was vacated by Rick Perry. Replacing Abbott in the Attorney General position was Ken Paxton, a former state representative and senator who won the election and was sworn in this January.

Like his predecessor, Paxton firmly believes in protecting the constitutional rights of Texans and is willing to take on the federal government if need be. After last Friday’s disastrous US Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, Paxton has issued a statement in which he assures Texas public officials that they will not be forced to violate their religious beliefs by issuing marriage licenses or otherwise be involved with same-sex marriages.

Paxton’s statement reads in part:

“Friday, the United States Supreme Court again ignored the text and spirit of the Constitution to manufacture a right that simply does not exist. In so doing, the Court weakened itself and weakened the rule of law, but did nothing to weaken our resolve to protect religious liberty and return to democratic self-government in the face of judicial activists attempting to tell us how to live.

“Indeed, for those who respect the rule of law, this lawless ruling presents a fundamental dilemma: A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is considered the law of the land, but a judge-made edict that is not based in the law or the Constitution diminishes faith in our system of government and the rule of law.

“Now hundreds of Texas public officials are seeking guidance on how to implement what amounts to a lawless decision by an activist Court while adhering both to their respective faiths and their responsibility to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. Here is where things currently stand:

“Pursuant to the Court’s flawed ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas issued an injunction against the enforcement of Texas marriage laws that define marriage as one man and one woman and therefore those laws currently are enjoined from being enforced by county clerks and justices of the peace. There is not, however, a court order in place in Texas to issue any particular license whatsoever – only the flawed direction by the U.S. Supreme Court on Constitutionality and applicable state laws.

“Importantly, the reach of the Court’s opinion stops at the door of the First Amendment and our laws protecting religious liberty. Even the flawed majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges acknowledged there are religious liberty protections of which individuals may be able to avail themselves. Our religious liberties find protection in state and federal constitutions and statutes. While they are indisputably our first freedom, we should not let them be our last.”

“In the Attorney General’s opinion my office issued in response to Lt. Governor Patrick’s request for guidance, we find that although it fabricated a new constitutional right in 2015, the Supreme Court did not diminish, overrule, or call into question the First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion that formed the first freedom in the Bill of Rights in 1791. This newly invented federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage should peaceably coexist alongside longstanding constitutional and statutory rights, including the rights to free exercise of religion and speech. This opinion concludes that:

  • “County clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.
  • “Justices of the peace and judges similarly retain religious freedoms, and may claim that the government cannot force them to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies over their religious objections, when other authorized individuals have no objection, because it is not the least restrictive means of the government ensuring the ceremonies occur. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.”

“It is important to note that any clerk who wishes to defend their religious objections and who chooses not to issue licenses may well face litigation and/or a fine. But, numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs, in many cases on a pro-bono basis, and I will do everything I can from this office to be a public voice for those standing in defense of their rights.

“Texas must speak with one voice against this lawlessness, and act on multiple levels to further protect religious liberties for all Texans, but most immediately do anything we can to help our County Clerks and public officials who now are forced with defending their religious beliefs against the Court’s ruling.”

If America had more politicians like Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton, we would not be in the terrible mess we are today and Christians would still be allowed to live by their faith without fear of persecution or prosecution. We can only hope and pray that one or both of these men will run for the White House in the near future as we need leaders that actually defend the US Constitution and our fundamental rights as defined in the Bill of Rights.

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