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Abbott and Paxton Make The Case For Churches to be Included in Federal Harvey Aid: Your Texas Roundup

Plus: Trump’s nominee for a Texas federal judge spot called transgender kids part of ”Satan’s plan,” Dawnna Dukes apparently spent big bucks on a psychic, and a German grocery chain is on its way to San Antonio.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY


“I’m not physically capable of playing defense right now, I’ll admit it, but I’m not done until I’m playing defense. I’m not finished until I can take one of those other guys’ spot and do just as well as them. Even then, I still want to go further than that. I’m going to try to play in college and I’d love to be the first amputee in the NFL.”

—Colton Ward, to the Abilene Reporter-News. Ward had his leg amputated in May due to complications stemming from a freak injury on the football practice field at Rider High School two years ago, but now he’s ready to play again, and he will suit up for this Friday’s game. 


BIG NEWS


Texas Governor Greg Abbott delivers a briefing to the public on Hurricane Harvey at the Texas Department of Public Safety building on September 1, 2017 in Austin, Texas.

Drew Anthony Smith/Getty

Prayer Request
Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday asking the president to include churches in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster assistance program, according to the Texas Tribune. Houses of worship are currently ineligible for FEMA Public Assistance grants, which provide disaster aid to private nonprofit facilities such as museums. In the letter, Abbott and Paxton argue that churches deserve to be included because many helped out with recovery efforts after Harvey. “When Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas, wreaking devastation over a huge swath of the Texas Gulf Coast, scores of churches and houses of worship jumped into action to serve thousands of Americans in their time of need,” the letter said. “Regrettably, due to a FEMA policy whose terms predate your administration, the same churches that are playing an instrumental role in the recovery effort cannot receive disaster relief funding to rebuild their own buildings. …Churches have opened their doors to feed, shelter, comfort, and rebuild their communities—even hosting FEMA operations in the process—but this policy has made those very same churches ineligible for assistance because their primary use is, by nature, religious. The policy of denying relief funds for churches discriminates on the grounds of religion and is nothing more than the relic of an administration that preferred rewriting laws to faithfully executing them.” The letter follows the introduction of a bill filed earlier this week by Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and James Lankford of Oklahoma, that would make houses of worship eligible for FEMA Public Assistance grants. Also, according to the Tribune, three Texas churches filed lawsuits against FEMA over the policy earlier this month, arguing they should be eligible for federal disaster aid. President Trump gave his support for including houses of worship in FEMA funding earlier this month, tweeting that “Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others).”


MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS


Forked Tongue
The First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer is in hot water after CNN reported that he had once called transgender children evidence of “Satan’s plan.” In separate speeches in 2015, Mateer—President Donald Trump’s new nominee for a federal judgeship in Texas—also complained that states were banning conversion therapy and claimed that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and bestiality. Mateer was working at the time as general counsel for right-wing religious liberty group First Liberty Institute, according to CNN. In a May 2015 speech titled “The Church and Homosexuality,” Mateer talked about a lawsuit filed in Colorado over a school that was restricting a transgender girl’s bathroom choice. “Now, I submit to you, a parent of three children who are now young adults, a first grader really knows what their sexual identity?” Mateer said. “I mean it just really shows you how Satan’s plan is working and the destruction that’s going on.” In the same speech, Mateer questioned the limit after same-sex marriage. “Why couldn’t four people wanna get married? Why not one man and three women? Or three women and one man?” Mateer said. “I mean, it’s disgusting.” In a November 2015 speech, Mateer called conversion therapy “biblical counseling,” and complained that it was being outlawed by courts, saying “they’re invading that area.”

Bleak Future
State Representative Dawnna Dukes’s corruption trial is about a month away, and prosecutors are preparing to show evidence of nineteen “extraneous acts,” including her spending $51,000 on an online psychic, according to the Austin American-Statesman. It’s still unclear how these things relate to the misdemeanor corruption charges facing Dukes, who allegedly gave a taxpayer-funded raise to a legislative aide to pay for gas money for driving her daughter to school. According to court papers filed this week by Travis County prosecutors, Dukes paid an online psychic $51,348 from December 2014 to January 2016, an average of nearly $1,000 per week. The filing also alleges that the Austin Democrat showed up to work at the Capitol while “full of morphine,” hid a cellphone from investigators, and was late submitting a campaign finance report and a personal financial statement. Dukes pleaded not guilty in June to tampering with a governmental record and abuse of official capacity by a public servant. Her trial date is set for October 16.

Guten Tag
A German grocery chain is set to open a new store in San Antonio, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Supermarket chain Lidl will anchor a planned shopping center on the city’s far West Side with a 30,000-square-foot store, according to a Tuesday news release. According to the Express-News, Lidl is known for its “low-price generic items and bare-bones stores,” which sounds, uh, really fun. The company also claims its products cost half as much as its competitors. The San Antonio shopping center is set to open in late 2018, though it’s unclear when the Lidl store will open its doors. Lidl spokesman William Harwood wouldn’t talk to the Express-News about the San Antonio development, but he did say that the chain is “pursuing a number of sites in Texas.” Lidl’s U.S. headquarters is in Virginia, and the chain is a newcomer to the U.S. grocery market, opening twenty stores this summer along the East Coast with plans for 80 more by the summer of 2018. As the Express-News notes, Lidl has already dropped at least $83 million on fourteen stores in the Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas, according permits filed with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.


WHAT WE’RE READING


Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.

Ricky Williams was arrested again Austin American-Statesman

The undocumented immigrant population is growing in Texas and dropping in California Sacramento Bee

A couple in Hooks abandoned their seven-year-old boy, claiming he’s possessed by demons Texarkana Gazette

El Paso’s Bowie High School is trying to set a world record for the largest school reunion El Paso Times

The 32 miles of proposed border wall in Starr County could cost $784 million McAllen Monitor

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  • José

    Speaking as a lifelong Christian and an active member of my local church, to which I donate both my time and my money, I have a question for Gov. Abbott and AG Paxton. How is giving away taxpayer money to build a house of worship NOT considered government support of religion?

    My own church operates an efficient and effective relief service. We are devoted to helping others, regardless of their faith or nationality. We aren’t looking for a handout from the state.

  • Texan

    No problem, simply pay taxes like the rest of us if you want public assistance.

  • Jed

    at what point does our governor’s ignorance of the US constitution and abdication of his duties to his state cease being a story? can we just all agree to assume that abbott is a horrible person and governor, so that we can stop having to read about it?