CENSORSHIP REJECTED; LEGISLATIVE PRAYERS CONTINUE IN HAYS COUNTY, TEXAS
Liberty Institute and Texas Values Stand On Supreme Court Precedent in Defending Religious Liberty
SAN MARCOS, TX, October 16, 2012—Today, Liberty Institute and Texas Values announced that the Hays County Commissioners court voted in favor of continuing to allow invocations before its meetings in central Texas. Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS), a Washington D.C. group, recently threatened to sue Hays County if legislative prayer continued at the Commissioners Court meetings, and it also asked Hays County to censor certain types of prayers.
Relying on U. S. Supreme Court precedent, Hays County Commissioners Court rejected the unconstitutional demands of AUSCS and made it very clear that “the opening of sessions of legislative or other deliberative public bodies with prayer is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country.” Hays County further stated that “it is not the job of the courts or deliberative bodies to ‘embark on a sensitive evaluation or to parse the content of a particular prayer’ offered before a deliberative body.”
“The Commissioners Court rejected D.C. efforts to censor public prayer and stood up to anti-freedom bullies, who learned you don’t mess with Hays County, Texas,” said Jonathan Saenz, who is President of Texas Values and a resident of Hays County. Mr. Saenz presented testimony to Hays County on the law governing this issue and spoke in support of the county’s right to have an invocation before its meetings. “We support this outcome and hope more elected officials will protect religious freedom and push back against these frivolous attacks,” he said.
Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute general counsel, said, “Even Texas is not immune to attacks on religious liberty, but thankfully we have strong court precedent that protects invocations from such bullying tactics when elected officials push back, like Hays County did today.”
Hays County adopted a formal policy for having a “volunteer chaplain” who will follow a procedure of randomly selecting a religious leader from a list of religious institutions in Hays County. The adopted policy also provides for an alternative method of allowing for the County Judge or a senior member of the Commissioners Court to offer the invocation, when the volunteer chaplain and selected religious leader is not present.