With Donald Trump in the White House, and with conservatives in control in the Texas capitol as well, conservative Christian attorneys are gaining influence and power in government So writes Paul Weber, an Austin bureau reporter for the Associated Press.
Weber says the Dallas law firm First Liberty, which focuses on religious freedom cases, has been growing in prominence.
The firm, which has been in operation since the 1990s. had been on the fringe, says Weber. Since Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took office, First Liberty’s profile and influence has increased.
“Paxton goes way back with the founder of First Liberty, Kelly Shackelford, more than 30 years,” Weber says. “When Paxton took office in 2015, some of his first, and most prominent hires were attorneys from First Liberty.”
It’s not unusual for attorneys general to hire lawyers from organizations that are in sympathy with their own policies. But Shackelford, Weber says, has contributed to Paxton’s personal legal defense fund. Paxton uses that fund to defend against charges of securities fraud that have been brought against him.
Six attorneys from either First Liberty, or a larger, similar group, the Alliance Defending Freedom, currently work for the attorney general in senior positions.
The impact of First Liberty lawyers in the AG’s office can be seen in the kind of cases, Paxton pursues, Weber says.
“There was a case involving a judge and prayer in his courtroom,” Weber says. “That was a case First Liberty got involved in, and then the attorney general signed onto that.”
Paxton and members of his office have also testified on religious liberty bills before the legislature.
“Opponents would say they are anti-LGBT bills, in terms of adoption for foster parents, and that sort of thing” Weber says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.