Federal Judge Rules Against Abbott in Capitol Mock Nativity Scene Case: Your Texas Roundup
Plus: The Astros move closer to the World Series, South Texas police catch a serial fajita burglar, and UT football falls short in the Red River Shootout.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I checked. I’m fully intact.”
—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday, on CNN’s State of the Union. Tillerson, a Wichita Falls native and the former CEO of Exxon, was responding to recent comments by Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who said Tillerson had been publicly castrated by President Donald Trump.
Christmas in October
Christmas came early, but it looks like Governor Greg Abbott didn’t get the present he wanted. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled on Friday that Abbott’s decision to remove a satirical nativity display from the rotunda at the Texas Capitol two years ago violated the First Amendment, according to the Texas Tribune. The four-foot-tall display portrayed the founding fathers and the Statue of Liberty in a manger, with the Bill of Rights in place of baby Jesus. Next to the manger display a poster read: “Happy Winter Solstice. At this season of the Winter Solstice we honor reason and the Bill of Rights (adopted December 15, 1791). Keep state and church separate.” After members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based non-profit advocacy group, placed the display at the Capitol days before Christmas in 2015, Abbott quickly had it removed. Abbott called it a “juvenile parody” that violated the rules of the State Preservation Board, the agency responsible for approving such displays at the Capitol. (The board had previously approved the display.) The Freedom From Religion Foundation sued Abbott, alleging the governor discriminatorily censored the group’s views and violated its right to free speech. Judge Sparks apparently agreed, ruling on Friday that Abbott “violated [the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s] clearly established First Amendment right to be free from viewpoint discrimination in a limited public forum.” Needless to say, the group probably won’t be invited to any of Abbott’s Capitol Christmas parties.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
The Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees in the first two games of the American League Championship Series over the weekend, winning both games 2-1. Houston’s starting pitchers dominated the formidable Yankees batters, with Dallas Keuchel striking out ten in seven scoreless innings to lead the Astros to the win on Friday, and Justin Verlander following up on Saturday by scattering five hits and one run over nine innings while striking out a whopping thirteen Yankees (all while Verlander’s fiancée, supermodel Kate Upton, watched with glee). As expected, the Astros’ offense has been led by second baseman and AL MVP candidate Jose Altuve, who has gone 5-for-8 so far in the series. That includes scoring the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday on a double by Carlos Correa. The Astros head to New York Monday night for game three of the best-of-seven series.
The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office has caught an alleged fajita burglar, accusing a Juvenile Justice Department employee of stealing an unfathomable $1.2 million worth of fajitas over the past nine years, according to the Brownsville Herald. Gilberto Escaramilla had taken the day off to go to a medical appointment in early August when a driver from a meat vendor for the Juvenile Justice Department called the kitchen to inform it of an 800-pound delivery of fajitas. Thing is, the kitchen doesn’t serve fajitas. But the fajita delivery guy told a kitchen worker that he’d been delivering fajitas to the department for nine years, so something clearly didn’t add up. The fajita mystery was solved the next day, when Escaramilla’s supervisors confronted him and he admitted to stealing them. He was promptly fired, and was arrested days later after police searched Escaramilla’s house and found packets of fajitas in his fridge. Escaramilla allegedly would receive the deliveries and sell the stolen fajitas to buyers he had lined up. He was charged on Friday with first-degree theft felony.
Red River Rivalry
The University of Texas Longhorns lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, falling to their bitter rivals, the Oklahoma Sooners, in the Red River Shootout 29-24, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The Longhorns (3-3) came into the game as the underdogs against twelfth-ranked Oklahoma (5-1), and it looked like a blowout as the Sooners ran out to a 20-0 lead in the second quarter. But Texas stormed back to take the lead, 24-23, in the fourth quarter before Oklahoma scored what would be the game-winner on a 59-yard touchdown pass from Heisman hopeful Baker Mayfield with five minutes to go. It’s Texas’s third loss to Oklahoma in the past four seasons, but the bright spot was freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who was pretty much the entire Longhorns offense, throwing for 278 yards and a touchdown while gaining 110 yards on the ground with another score. “The atmosphere was incredible,” Ehlinger told reporters after the game, according to the Statesman. “Losing the game is not incredible. I’m looking forward to the next three years.”
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
San Antonio’s WNBA team is relocating to Las Vegas San Antonio Express-News
An animal “baby boom” helped the Dallas Zoo set an attendance record this year Dallas Morning News
One of Ted Cruz’s Senate seat challengers has a really weird fundraising method Texas Tribune
Whataburger fired an employee who apparently refused to serve police officers in Denison Sherman Herald Democrat
Two Cirque du Soleil performers were arrested in San Antonio on drug charges San Antonio Express-News