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Ken Paxton
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Weekly Updates from Attorney General Ken Paxton: December 16, 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016 – Austin

Dear Friends,

There are certain hallmark moments that seem forever associated with the Christmas season. I personally enjoy the office parties. It gives me a chance to individually thank the thousands of men and women who work hard every day at the attorney general’s office to bring law and order to Texas. However, those laws are sometimes ignored or misinterpreted, resulting in unnecessary limitations on Texans’ constitutional freedoms. In this instance, a public school decided that their commitment to diversity does not extend to Christians.

On Tuesday, December 13th, the Killeen Independent School District Board of Trustees voted to support the principal of Patterson Middle School, who censored staff member Dedra Shannon’s Christmas poster because of its religious message. The poster in question depicted a poignant scene from the classic holiday tale “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” where the character Linus summarizes the biblical meaning of the holiday. The school board feared that religious terminology violated the First Amendment and would provoke a lawsuit. 

Although the school board’s concerns are understandable in light of the frivolous litigation the left often levies against practicing Christians, they stem from an incorrect reading of the law. The U.S. Supreme Court has held repeatedly that neither students nor teachers shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. Additionally, the Texas Education Code explicitly encourages school districts to take a more inclusive approach to religious and secular celebrations.

My office refused to let the threat of a dissenter’s veto stifle the rights of Killeen ISD’s educational community. I sent a letter to school board urging them to reconsider their misguided policy. I even offered to exercise the discretion granted to me under the Education Code and represent Killeen ISD against any party who would seek to restrict their students and faculty’s religious expression. The school board declined. As a consequence, my office intervened in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Dedra Shannon, asking the court to protect Ms. Shannon’s religious liberty rights. I am happy to announce that the judge recognized the case’s important implications and granted a temporary restraining order. As a result, holiday hallmarks can continue at Killeen ISD uninterrupted. 

Read more about my intervention into the lawsuit here, and the temporary restraining order issued here.

Clean Power Plan

Last month’s election showed that the American public is tired of bloated government, where bureaucrats believe that they, not the private market, should decide how the economy is managed. Americans voted for President-elect Trump with the expectation that he would cut through the morass and restore the federal government back to its proper, limited role. 

Yesterday, my office presented President-elect Trump with the opportunity to do just that. With West Virginia, Texas led a coalition of 24 states urging the president-elect and congressional leaders to withdraw President Obama’s so-called Clean Power Plan. The bipartisan letter suggests a four-point strategy, which, if adopted, would prevent the EPA from attempting to interfere with national power market in such an unlawful and invasive manner ever again. 

If you remember, my office filed suit against the EPA back on October 23, 2015. We won an unprecedented and historic stay of the regulation on February 9, 2016, before the U.S. Supreme Court. Although I remain confident that our challenge will prevail, an about-face from the federal government’s political branches would leave a more lasting impression. The American public needs to know that our country is on a new course, one where its leaders know how to prevent regulatory excess.

To learn more, click on the hyperlink above.

Amicus Briefs

My office also filed two amicus brief of note this week. First, we asked the court to delist the Bone Cave Harvestman – a tiny cave-dwelling arachnid – from the endangered species list. The arachnid only exists in two Central Texas counties and is not bought or traded on any market. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nevertheless has claimed jurisdiction under the federal government’s interstate commerce power to regulate development and non-economic activities on any property where the harvestman dwells.

Second, we asked the Texas Supreme Court to review and strike down the city of Laredo’s unlawful ban on plastic check-out bags. In August, the Fourth Court of Appeals stuck down the law because it violated the plain language of Texas’ Health and Safety Code, which forbids cities from making a rule to “prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law.” Should the Texas Supreme Court affirm, their ruling would invalidate similar ordinances across the state. Texas cities have grown more and more contemptuous of the rule of law over the last few years. A favorable ruling would act as a vital reminder that, although local control is oftentimes preferred, sovereignty lies with the state.

You can learn more about my office’s work to preserve state sovereignty from federal and municipal overreach by clicking on the following two links:

Bone Cave Harvestman

Laredo Bag Ban


Very Truly Yours,

Ken Paxton signature

Ken Paxton