***Update***: The city now says this was all just a “big misunderstanding”:
Calling the issue a “big misunderstanding,” City Manager Kyle Hayes said Saturday Beaumont PD officers will be allowed to hold their Bible study in the police department’s conference room.
The city owns more than 30 buildings and facilities where non-business related events, such as bridal showers or birthday parties, are not allowed, Hayes said.
“When you have a blanket policy like that… sometimes something like a Bible study gets caught in that,” he said.
When I first saw that some Beaumont (Texas) police officers were suing the city for stopping their “voluntary bible study” during lunch breaks, I thought it was a joke. Of course they had a right to gather during lunch and discuss the Bible. Why would any church/state separation group get in the way of that?
“We have officers and other city employees from a variety of ethnicities and faith backgrounds that attend,” [Sergeant Burt Moore] said. “I feel like the City is unfairly targeting us.”
The attorney wrote that a Texas town is the last place they thought would “impose on the religious rights of its citizenry, much less oppress the police officers who place their lives on the line every day to serve and protect us.”
So far I’m on his side. I don’t see how the city has any case here.
But it isn’t until halfway through the Beaumont Enterprise article that you realize what the problem really is. And it’s not their faith.
City officials responded by saying they strongly support religious freedom and employees’ right to practice their beliefs, even during breaks or the lunch hour, but that the officers were sending blast emails citywide inviting employees to attend bible studies in the police chief’s conference room.
That’s where they crossed the line. You can’t use city facilities to host your personal gatherings. While there may be chaplains allowed in the police department (which is another issue), even they are there on city business.
Whatever this is, it sure as hell isn’t Christian persecution. The officers are welcome to discuss the Bible on their breaks without taking over a room in the department. This policy is no different from one that says cops can’t borrow a police car for a personal road trip.
I will say that it’s nice to see the city putting a stop to this instead of a church/state separation group. That’s exactly as it should be, even though it rarely happens.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)