December 19, 2015 –The City of Beaumont has quickly reversed course and has now decided to allow police officers to continue having their voluntary Bible studies during their lunch hours. The City had attempted to ban the police officers from exercising their First Amendment rights by threatening to shut down their voluntary weekly Bible study. Officers and city employees have held the Bible study for years during their lunch hour and the study includes a variety of ethnicities and faith backgrounds. The police officers decided to defend their constitutional rights by sending over a demand letter on Friday, asking the City to stop violating their rights, or face a lawsuit under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other related legal precedent. The demand letter can be found here.
The City of Beaumont has not responded in writing but did release this statement to the media:
“City Manager Kyle Hayes advised me that he had reviewed applicable case law and police officers will be allowed to continue to meet in the Police Department conference room if it’s available during their lunch hour and hold bible study,” Councilman Getz told KFDM News. Getz says Hayes informed the attorney for the officers Friday afternoon.
The police officers’ lead attorney, Briscoe Cain, stated:
“It is by God’s grace that we can declare victory on this very important issue. I want to thank Chief Singletary for his constant support of this program and congratulate the four bold officers who came forward and took a stand for justice and the Constitution; Sgt. Burt Moore, Officer Tony Harding, Det. Barry Scarborough, and Sgt. Anthony Goudeau. Our police officers always have our backs–I’m glad we could have theirs. We hope the City of Beaumont is now committed to full respect of the First Amendment. We are also recommending that the City of Beaumont do sensitivity training on First Amendment freedoms with the legal experts at the Texas-based Liberty Institute to prevent violations of religious liberty in the future.”
Jonathan Saenz, President and Attorney of Texas Values, is serving as co-counsel on this case and stated:
“Banning a Bible Study in Texas is always a bad idea. It seems even worse in this case when we know police officers put their lives on the line for us every day. The City of Beaumont should be ashamed of themselves for this outrageous denial of our fundamental rights. We hope the City now understands that the people and vigorous advocates in Texas will not allow religious liberty to be trampled on. We are thankful that our police officers, our first responders can now continue to engage in voluntary prayer and reflection. We hope that the City’s reversal on the Bible ban resolves this ugly matter and the City of Beaumont stops all infringement of the First Amendment towards our police officers moving forward.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released the following statement: “It is completely unacceptable for the city of Beaumont to ban its police officers from holding voluntary Bible studies during their lunch hour. This is an infringement on their First Amendment Right to free exercise of religion guaranteed by the United States Constitution.” His full statement can be found here.