“It’s important to understand opponents of religious liberty aren’t going away anytime soon,” said Paxton, a Republican, as he spoke to a crowd of about 100 people gathered at Pflugerville’s First Baptist Church. “We must refuse to be marginalized in the name of political correctness.”
Paxton, who has kept a low profile since his indictment on securities fraud charges this summer, appeared at a gathering billed as an effort to raise awareness for clergy’s right to refuse to perform same-sex marriages under a new state law known as the Pastor Protection Act. Organized by Texas Values — a statewide advocacy group dedicated to advancing conservative social causes — the event also featured state Sen. Craig Estes, the Wichita Falls Republican who sponsored the legislation.
As he addressed the audience Tuesday, Paxton described an “ugly and frightening turn of events” — a growing movement to keep “faith and the faithful” out of public debate.
“Our faith informs the decisions that we make and we must live our lives in a fashion that is true to our values,” he said. “It’s not just a right, it’s an obligation to stand up for what we believe in.”
A Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton this summer on three felony charges related to claims that he misled investors in business dealings before he took office as attorney general. Paxton, who pled not guilty to the charges and has said they are politically motivated, did not mention the case against him Tuesday.
According to court filings, Paxton allegedly persuaded two investors to buy large amounts of stock in technology firm Servergy without disclosing that he would be compensated for it. In additional court documents made public earlier this month, Servergy’s former CEO states that Paxton accepted $100,000 worth of shares in the company in exchange for political advice and information about how the company might market its servers to government data centers.
The McKinney-based company is also the focus of a separate U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into whether it defrauded investors with false claims about the sales of its data servers and their technological capabilities.
Until recently, Paxton had stayed away from public events amid regular headlines over his case. But he began making the rounds with conservative groups earlier this month, including speaking at an event held by the Houston-area Kingwood Tea Party and a Williamson County Republican Leaders meeting.
Tuesday marked his second appearance at a Baptist church in as many weeks. Last Sunday, Paxton spoke to First Baptist Grapevine’s congregation, making an appeal for greater Christian involvement in politics.
Many of his remarks echoed those he made in Grapevine, where he described efforts to help pass the Pastor Protection Act as an example of what Christians could do if they made their voices heard.
“That bill was going nowhere last session, but then something happened, the pastors got together,” he said. “They spoke out and reminded everyone we don’t have to passively accept the growing marginalization of our faith.”