I mentioned yesterday that a Texas woman dropped two puppies off at a garbage dump, only to have someone see her and call the local sheriff. Unfortunately, when Newton County Sheriff Billy Rowles confronted her, he offered some prayers and let her off the hook.
That’s not just my interpretation of the event. That’s what he wrote in his column in a local newspaper:
We received a call reporting that a lady dumped two puppies at the dump.
We located her and had a prayer meeting with her. It’s against the law to dump dogs. I don’t think she will do it again.
It was infuriating for multiple reasons. Not only was a “prayer meeting” a violation of church/state separation, it didn’t help the dogs, and there’s no reason to believe she won’t do it again. Rowles effectively let her off the hook because she said she was Christian.
Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Ryan Jayne said in a letter to Rowles that he “not only failed to enforce the law, but… also chose to inject religion into your interaction with the offender.”
Well, Rowles has now responded to the kerfuffle… but he’s not apologizing. Instead, he’s arguing that a “prayer meeting” has nothing whatsoever to do with prayer.
In a telephone interview Friday, Rowles said he was using a figure of speech and did not literally “sit down and say a prayer” with the woman. Instead, the sheriff’s office told her that if it happened again, charges would be filed.
“In East Texas, that’s kind of like having a prayer meeting,” Rowles said.
Huh. That’s… a new one to me. I’ve never heard someone use “prayer meeting” as a synonym for a “come-to-Jesus” moment, but maybe commenters who live in the area have heard it before.
Even if we give Rowles the benefit of the doubt, though, his reaction to FFRF’s letter suggests this was more than a nothing burger involving a figure of speech.
“If they want to talk to me about this matter, come to my office,” Rowles said. “I will be glad to talk with them eyeball to eyeball.
“They’re not going to like my response, I can tell you that.”
Is that supposed to be a threat…? Is FFRF not allowed to ask about a potentially illegal situation on behalf of a community member? And why wouldn’t they like his response if it was just a miscommunication?
It’s like he wants to pick a fight despite offering an excuse for why he did nothing wrong. It’s an over-the-top reaction to an honest inquiry about what he wrote.
(Screenshot via KUTV)