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Indicted Texas attorney general tells church that more Christians need to ‘step into politics’

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GRAPEVINE — In a rare public appearance since his indictment in late July, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton made an appeal for more Christian involvement in politics as he addressed the congregation at First Baptist Grapevine on Sunday.

“It takes a lot of courage for believers to step into this political process,” he said. “We are in the position as the church, and as believers, we have to stand up and speak out.”

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Paxton, who was asked to speak at the church by a local tea party group, made his remarks during about 20 minutes of conversation with Pastor Doug Page.

Sunday’s speech marked his second public appearance since a Collin County grand jury indicted him this summer on three felonies related to claims that he misled investors in business dealings while he served as a state legislator. Paxton, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, has said the case against him is politically motivated.

Until now, 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, speaking at an event held Sept. 3 by the Houston-area Kingwood Tea Party. He is set to address a Williamson County Republican Leaders meeting in Round Rock Monday evening.

The attorney general faces two first-degree and one third-degree felony charges for possible violations of state securities law. 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 Thursday, 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.

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On Sunday, Paxton did not directly refer to the charges against him. He instead emphasized the importance of faith and the support of fellow Christians in his life — and listed among his biblical heroes Daniel, Paul, Joseph, and Moses who he said had stood up to unjust laws and government as Christians though they faced the risk of imprisonment and death.

“I feel like it would be hopeless if I were out there alone and I didn’t feel the presence and knowing that there are believers praying for me. I don’t know that it would be possible for me to move forward,” he said. “It makes more of a difference than you think.”

As an example of what Christians could do if they made their voices heard, the attorney general described efforts to help pass legislation known as the Pastor Protection Bill, which affirmed the rights of clergy to refuse to conduct marriages that violate their beliefs.

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“That bill was dead. Then 200 pastors all started calling their state representatives and it kicked into gear and passed. That’s the power of the Christian community if they’ll get involved in the process,” he said.

The former lawmaker also credited his victory in his first race for the Legislature — where he served as a state representative then as a state senator from 2003 until 2013 — to the engagement of the Christian faithful in politics.

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“One of my opponents was my senator’s chief of staff, so he had all the endorsements of the community leaders, he had all the money,” Paxton said. “What I felt God was telling me was ‘get the Christian community out to vote.’”

Paxton was invited to speak at the church by Julie McCarty, the president of the NE Tarrant Tea Party, an influential group in the state’s Republican politics. McCarty has been among Paxton’s chief defenders since his indictment.

By Morgan Smith, The Texas Tribune

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