Greg Abbott

GregAbbottTEXAS GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT PRAISES OUR FREEDOMS

   I am honored to be here at First Baptist Dallas. Praise God and the Lord Jesus Christ for the freedoms that we have in this nation. As we celebrate today the Fourth of July, we thank those who came before us for providing us the freedoms embedded in the Declaration of Independence itself, and in our United States Constitution, to protect our religious liberties. I don't know of anyone in the entire country to better understand the connection between those foundational documents and our ongoing safeguarding of religious liberties, than Dr. Jeffers. You all saw the aftermath of a significant United States Supreme Court decision this last week, where the issue of religious liberty itself was on the line, and religious liberty won in a close five to four decision.

   Dr. Jeffers wrote an opinion blog that showed up on Fox News. He said, "People of faith have never accepted a dichotomy between their faith and their work. They believe their relationship with God and commitment to obeying His commands should impact every area of their lives, their family, their finances, and their vocations." He finished by saying that Solomon wrote in the Old Testament, "In all ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."

   That relates to what I want to visit with you about today. Because it has been that very gospel, that very statement by Solomon and the Old Testament, that has led me to where I am sitting before you today. I will be telling you about my life, my connections, and fighting for religious liberty. I grew up the grandson of a pastor. My life has been infused with faith from the very beginning. But like so many of you, that faith was tested. I charted out a pathway that I wanted to pursue. I attended the University of Texas to get my undergraduate degree, then going to Vanderbilt Law School, and then heading to Houston, Texas. I charted a pathway toward a life of riches, only to find that I was sent down a different pathway.

   One day after I moved to Houston, Texas, in fact, it was on July 14th. Just ten days from now will be our 30th anniversary. I was out running and a huge oak tree crashed down on my back. The tree pierced my spinal cord, leaving me immediately paralyzed, and never able to walk again. I have been wheelchair bound ever since. I can see some of you shaking your heads wondering, "How slow was that guy running to get hit by falling tree?"

   My life was broken, my back was broken, and I faced what seemed to be an insurmountable challenge. But there were two things that helped piece my life back together. One was a remarkable woman named Cecilia. She's a woman to whom I had been married to for less than three years at the time. Less than three years before that accident, she walked down the aisle like this with me. We exchanged vows to be married. We recited those words that so many have recited. "For better, and for worse, in sickness and in health." I have to tell you, when you’re dressed up in a tuxedo, and a pretty dress, standing in front of all your friends, and full of excitement. It is so easy to recite those words, never knowing if you’re really going to be pressed to have to live up to those vows.

   I'm proud to see the way that my wife has truly embraced those vows. Next month, she and I are going to celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary. That shows the commitment of those who believe in their vows. But the other thing that helped me piece my life back together was realizing exactly what it was the Pastor Jeffers talked about on Fox this last week; when he made reference to Solomon. Because I knew from my childhood, as I laid in the hospital bed, that in my own words, if all we do is to continue to focus on God and to acknowledge Him; He will direct you down the pathway.

   I had no idea what my pathway would be. I seemingly had no pathway what-so-ever. But one thing led to another, healing begets work and work begets other activities. I was elected to be a state district judge in Houston, Texas. Then I was promoted to be a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court; and elected by you, the people of Texas, to be your Attorney General in 2002, and have been reelected twice since then.

   There was a pathway for me. I took away from that experience two powerful things. One was always to remember to rely upon God, and He would chart my pathway. There was no way we could lose, and no challenge we couldn’t overcome.

   The second powerful lesson that directed me onward into the future challenges was that our lives are not defined by the challenges we face. Instead, we define our lives by how we respond to the challenges that come our way. That is directly relevant to what we are facing today in the United States of America. Because Christians and the Christian faith are being challenged like never before. Dr. Jeffers made reference to one of those challenges that came my way. When in my early years as Attorney General, an atheist walked across the Texas Capitol grounds, asking a Federal Judge to have the Ten Commandments Monument torn down.

 

When America Implodes - Gregg Abbott Testimony from First Dallas on Vimeo.

   I said, "Not on my watch, will I allow the Ten Commandments to be torn down." We went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. We won and that monument still stands today.

   As I made the argument before the United States Supreme Court, all the other lawyers argued from a podium. I was unable to go to a podium to argue, but sat down at a table in front of me. After the argument concluded, what always happens in every single case, the Supreme Court, presiding Justice says, "The case will be submitted." The same thing happened in this case; however, the presiding Judge added one more sentence; “And General Attorney Abbott show’s you don't have to stand to make a compelling argument."

   Well, there have been many more fights to come our way. Fights that directly challenged our faith in Texas. Such as when an atheist challenged our Pledge of Allegiance, that our children recited in schools every day. That includes the phrase, "One nation under God." I put together a coalition for all fifty states and took that case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. We won. This time unanimously confirming that one nation under God should remain in our pledge of allegiance.

   When an atheist came to challenge the ability to display a nativity scene in Athens, Texas, thinking they could bulldoze the people in Athens, to capitulate and no longer display that nativity scene. I helped Athens weigh in and said, "They do have a right to display that nativity scene." We won, allowing them to recognize Christmas for what it was at that time of the year.

   But of all the fights that have impressed me the most, has not been the fight I took the lead that showed me the true hearts that lie within our students today. A group of high school cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, just north of Beaumont; weren't interested in doing drugs; they weren't interested in going down a pathway of sinful activity. Instead, what these young girls wanted to do, was display Bible verses on banners. No teacher told them to do that, no instructor, and no sponsor. It was the children themselves that wanted to do that.

   But the Freedom from Religion Foundation out of Wisconsin took offense to it. So, they marched down to Kountze, Texas, and told the school board to stop those young cheerleaders from displaying Bible verses. The school board members capitulated; but the high school girls did not. They said they wanted to fight, and I joined in the fight with them. We went to court and won, and those cheerleaders were able to display Bible verses on the banners.

   My point is very simple. We will still face these ongoing challenges against Christians and against Christianity, against the religious liberties that were guaranteed to us from the very founding of this nation. We as a people, have the ability, to not allow our world, our nation, our city, our state to be defined by the way that we are challenged. Instead, we must decide that we are going to define our future, by the way that we as a group, respond to that challenge. Remember the lesson that I was told by a Supreme Court Justice. “You don’t need a podium to speak from. You don't need to stand at a podium to make a compelling argument."

Greg Abbott's Hearing His Voice Testimony

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