President Donald Trump’s nominee to become a district judge in Texas admitted that he discriminates based on sexual orientation. But he didn’t think that should prevent him from serving on the federal bench.
“Guess what? I attend a conservative Baptist church. We discriminate, alright. On the basis of sexual orientation, we discriminate,” Jeff Mateer said during a speech to the National Religious Liberties Conference in 2015, long before Trump nominated him. At the time, Mateer was general counsel for the conservative legal organization First Liberty Institute. “Does that mean I can’t be a judge? In some states, I think that’s true, unfortunately.”
Editor’s note: We’ve combined remarks from the two speeches, each an hour long, into a single audio file, with beeps indicating editing.
That remark is just one of many that Mateer — who’s currently the first assistant attorney general in Austin, Texas — made during a pair of speeches at the conference. In them, Mateer provided a roadmap for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people without legal repercussions.
In the two speeches — titled “Seven Things Every Christian Employee Should Know” and “Are You Ready? Protecting Your Church or 501(c)(3) Ministry” — Mateer also said the Constitution doesn’t mandate the separation of church and state and that diversity training “brainwashes” people into accepting the LGBTQ lifestyle.
Citing both speeches, 36 LGBTQ advocacy organizations sent a letter to the Senate on Tuesday demanding that its members vote down Mateer’s nomination. His comments, the letter states, “disqualify” him from public service.
The American Civil Liberties Union provided VICE News with audio of both speeches, which we’ve included below. While the content of the “Seven Things” speech has been previously reported, we highlighted notable moments from both talks that don’t appear elsewhere. Neither Mateer’s office nor the organizers of the National Religious Liberties Conference responded to VICE News’ request for comment.
“Trump has been attacking LGBT people’s civil rights in the workplace, the military, and schools,” the ACLU’s political director Faiz Shakir said. “Mateer’s nomination raises further concerns that this administration is intent on reversing hard-fought progress for equality.”
Prayer meetings “need” to be happening in the Department of Justice
You know the attorney general of the United States under George W. Bush was a guy named John Ashcroft. And John Ashcroft had Bible studies and prayer meetings in the Department of Justice. I don’t think they’re doing that anymore [laughs]. But they need to be.
Diversity training is “brainwashing” and “reprogramming”
… [T]he federal government right now has a lot of mandatory diversity training .… But it is nothing less than brainwashing with the Left’s agenda on LGBT. So we’re encouraging federal employees to exercise their religious liberty rights and ask for an accommodation. “I don’t wanna attend your diversity training because it violates my religious beliefs.” They have a federal-law right to not be, to participate. … Really, it’s what they call “reprogramming” in order to convince them that something that they know is wrong is right. There’s no reason an employee has to sit through that.
The “separation of church and state” is “nowhere” in the U.S. constitution
I would bring a $100 bill and I would say, “Alright, first person” — and everybody has their iPhone — and I would say “first person to find in the Constitution the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ gets this $100 bill” .… And you know what — and everybody knows that, right? — that phrase isn’t in the U.S. Constitution. It’s nowhere.
Mateer wishes he could eat every meal at Chick-fil-A
Shouldn’t Ford be about making better automobiles rather than advancing a social cause? And I think Wells Fargo’s the same way. I mean, look, how many of us have accounts at Wells Fargo? How many of us drive Fords? I mean, we can’t eat every meal at Chick-fil-A.
The Supreme Court needs Evangelical Christians
We need a Republican president who does a good job of appointing people who believe the way we do. You know on the U.S. Supreme Court today — there are nine, obviously — how many Evangelical Christians are on the U.S. Supreme Court? Zero. Justice Scalia points that out in his opinion in Obergefell. How many protestants are on the U.S. Supreme Court? Zero.
“Honest conviction” lets employers discriminate
If you’re an employer, you’re a business person, what you need to demonstrate is you have an honest conviction concerning this belief. So how do you do that? You do it the way Hobby Lobby did it. You have documents .… And Hobby Lobby gives us a roadmap for protecting business persons. It’s not going to be good enough when you call me and you own — uh, let’s take an example, a bed and breakfast. I don’t know why I would use that. You own a bed and breakfast. And you have some beliefs about, uh, let’s just pick a random topic, like same-sex marriage or same-sex couples. And you have beliefs about that. Now can you, your place of public accommodation, can you restrict to just married couples of the opposite sex? I’d submit to you, I’d submit to you, if you don’t have a written policy, the answer is probably not.
In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court ruled that religious liberty allows some companies to avoid providing birth control against Obamacare’s mandate. In Mateer’s view, the same logic would likely apply to businesses that don’t want to serve gay clients.
Gay marriage is unconstitutional
And of course, in Obergefell, the Supreme Court found, in a 5-4 decision, with Justice Kennedy adding the fifth vote on this one, found that somewhere lurking in the 14th Amendment, unknown to any lawyer for decades since its adoption right after the Civil War, somewhere in there, is a right, a fundamental right for two people of the same sex to marry. … There’s no honest attorney, no honest constitutional scholar, that would say that this decision [_Obergefell_] stands on its rationale.
In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruled that, under the 14th Amendment, states can’t keep gay people from getting married. Some conservatives, including Mateer, think that the court inserted protections for gay people into the 14th Amendment, which doesn’t specify protections based on sexuality.
Churches should be able to endorse candidates
This is a little closer to the line, so everyone here recognizes that, the IRS’ line — which I believe is unconstitutional, by the way. So if there’s a pastor here who wants to endorse a candidate — I was gonna try to think of one, a third one — O’Malley, who wants to endorse a candidate, I actually think you’d have a constitutional right to do so, and I don’t think — I’m waiting for the IRS to battle that.”
Trump has taken aim at the Johnson Amendment — which prevents nonprofits, including churches, from endorsing candidates and making contributions to campaigns — through an executive order that asked the IRS not to enforce the amendment.
LGBTQ-friendly workplaces force Christians to approve of their policies
Let me give you a side note: If you work for a big company and they unveil a new LGBT policy, I probably wouldn’t comment on it. ’Cause they’re not asking you to comment on it. What they want you to say is, “This is wonderful.”
Gay marriage is a “challenge” for Christians
It’s people like you, people who are in their churches, who are now being told, I have to do this, or do I have to do this. Do I have to marry same-sex couples? Do I have to allow a same-sex couple to use my facility? Do I have to admit, at our Christian school, do I have to admit a same-sex couple’s child. Challenges after challenges, all in light of [the] Obergefell [decision].