FFRF urges blocking of extremist federal judicial nominee


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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging President Trump and the U.S. Senate to stymie the nomination to a federal judgeship of a person whose extreme views and close ties to a Religious Right organization render him unfit.

Jeffrey C. Mateer, nominated for U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Texas, has a long history of placing his personal religious beliefs above the Constitution, the rule of law and his duty to clients. Mateer has also made intemperate public comments, such as calling LGBTQ citizens “disgusting,” “sinful,” and prone to “debauchery” intending to bring about “the complete destruction of marriage” and has deemed the notion of transgenderism to be “part of Satan’s plan.”

Mateer spent six years at an extremist Christian law firm, First Liberty Institute. While at the Institute from early 2010 to March 2016, Mateer served as executive editor of an annual report called “Undeniable.” The report is so deliberately misleading and defective that FFRF is sending Trump and the Senate Judiciary Committee an appendix highlighting some of its worst flaws. Nobody who could edit and publish such a purposefully deceptive report is fit to sit on the federal bench, FFRF contends. 

Mateer has a long history of problematic actions and views that FFRF has highlighted for Trump and the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter co-signed by the Secular Coalition for America. It has also provided the committee questions, urging members to carefully scrutinize Mateer.

Mateer has repeatedly abused his public office to promote the religious agenda of his former employer, FFRF charges. Mateer is a mediocre lawyer with no judicial experience who did not get his current job with the Texas attorney general’s office on merit. The job was not publicly posted, as state law 656.001 requires. Instead, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who is under indictment for multiple counts of felony fraud — simply appointed Mateer. Paxton is very close with the First Liberty Institute’s executive director, Kelly Shackelford, and credits him with encouraging Paxton to run for the state House seat he won in 2002. Mateer has used this public office to promote the Institute’s agenda, including having the office intervene into cases the Institute is litigating.

While at the First Liberty Institute, Mateer apparently advised clients to violate the law when it furthered the religious agenda of the Institute, in some cases costing local governments tens of thousands of dollars. FFRF urges the committee to ask him about these various conflict of interests.

Mateer appeared to misrepresent the law when he was at the First Liberty Institute. When the city of Plano, where the Institute is based, was considering amending its nondiscrimination ordinance to protect LGBTQ citizens, Mateer testified angrily before the City Council as an attorney representing the Institute, misrepresenting the state of the law, the Hobby Lobby case and perhaps how many times he had successfully challenged such laws. The Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 4.01 states: “In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly: (a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person.” It appears that Mateer violated this rule.

Mateer has dubious views about basic legal issues affecting innumerable Americans.

For instance, Mateer has called the constitutional separation between state and church a myth because it is not in the Constitution “verbatim.” In their letter to the Judiciary Committee, FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor urge members to ask him: Is there or is there not a constitutional separation of church and state? And since the rights to a fair trial, to privacy and of a woman’s right to abortion are not explicitly stated verbatim in the Constitution, will Mateer still uphold those rights?

Given his extremist views on LGBTQ citizens and their rights, FFRF is asking the Judiciary Committee to pin him down on whether he can be counted on to afford fair treatment to LGBTQ and transgender individuals.

Mateer also says that adultery, homosexuality and no-fault divorce are against God’s law. The question arises whether Mateer will decide legal issues on their merits or will people who’re divorced or who have had an affair or are homosexual and have cases before him receive biased treatment.

Mateer has shown contempt for stare decisis or legal precedent and a desire to overturn key cases that protect women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. FFRF has provided the Judiciary Committee a slew of hard-hitting questions to probe him about his record.

And Mateer believes “religious liberty” allows believers to impose their beliefs on others, especially women and LGBTQ individuals. FFRF is requesting the committee to grill Mateer about such views.

Mateer also distorts reality about “religious hostility” in America and believes that protecting civil rights is attacking faith. FFRF is petitioning the Judiciary Committee to seek clarification on whether Mateer understands the difference between upholding the First Amendment and “purging religion from public life.”

Mateer and Liberty Institute have worked to scrub some of Mateer’s most egregious conduct and statements from the Internet, but it has been saved and much of it can be viewed at www.jeffreymateer.com

“Mateer was improperly vetted and should never have been nominated in the first place,” Barker and Gaylor write to Trump.

That’s why secular organizations are pushing hard to make sure that Mateer doesn’t get confirmed.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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