Attending a government meeting should not be like attending a church, being directed to bow your head, be led in prayer, FROM government officials. The Supreme Court has ruled that government entities that want to have prayer must not discriminate among all comers. That is, however, what Judge Danny Chambers of Somervell County Commissioners Court is doing and continues to do. At the second regular meeting where he presided as judge, prayer was on the agenda and in every case until the last few meetings, one of the commissioners, in a flouting of the US constitution, did prayer from the dais. There were two months recently, June and July, 2016, where Chambers opted to have two different pastors from the community come do the prayer from the audience, but opted not to be inclusive but discriminate against my request to do the invocation.
The question then is, has Somervell County always had a prayer? I can't say before Judge Walter Maynard, but I know during his time the meetings were strictly secular. At that point also, there were no prayers at City of Glen Rose, the appointed board for the Hospital Authority, or the Somervell County Water District. GRISD's school board has had prayers during almost all that time, which are blantanly unconstitutional (I wrote about this in 2010) . Were prayers done during the previous Somervell County Commissioners Court Judge, Mike Ford's term? Nope.I also believe that the pledges were not done at all during either Maynard or Ford's terms of office.
Here is the list of meeting agends, from the Somervell County Commissioners Court website
Mike Ford was judge in the last term until January 2015. Here is the December 2014 regular meeting agenda
From December 2013
From December 2012
Now to January 2015. Danny Chambers first meeting as judge did NOT include a prayer (I video recorded that meeting)
By February 2015, prayer was on the agenda, Danny Chambers put it there as an agenda request. From a cursory look at the agendas online, it appears this agenda request always comes from Danny Chambers.
Thus, it is Danny Chambers who is apparently controlling, without benefit of a policy, how or if invocations should be done at a secular government meeting. And, as I noted the other day, it appears that when he realized that he could not control the invocations according to his own personal beliefs, he went back to the unconstitutional action of having commissioners pray FROM the dais, which I had originally asked to stop in May of this year.
As a side note, in comparison to the City of Glen Rose, the City has had invocations since Dennis Moore was the Mayor and continuing with Sam Moody. The meetings with Pam Miller, Mayor, did not include prayer. I have been to meetings where the prayer was offered up by the community, including, on one occasion, a boy scout, and recently, a minister from a local church. I asked, on August 9 2016, Sam Moody what the policy or procedure is for the City of Glen Rose and was pleased to see that the City is following the constitution and is inclusive to any who would ask to do the invocation, with a few rules. Rules 2 and 3 track very well with what the Supreme Court ruled in Town of Greece v Galloway. In other words, the City has, rightly, opened up the opportunity to give an invocation at City meetings to all who agree to abide by the rules below.I have been accepted to do an invocation at the September 2016 regular meeting and have assured Mayor Moody that I agree with the rules surrounding this. I also find it realliy wonderful that anyone who wishes to join, in a ceremonial invocation TO elected officials with the goal of reflecting on our shared values and goals are not discriminated against by the City as Somervell County is doing.
To the best of my knowledge, there are no established, written policies, procedures, or lists within the City of Glen Rose regarding selection of individuals to give an invocation at City meetings. I have followed what, from my knowledge and observation, is the established tradition of prior Mayors. That tradition, to the best of my knowledge, has been for the Mayor to either, at random, invite various members of the community or accept offers, when approached, from members of the community to deliver an invocation at an upcoming meeting.
At the time of invitation or offer, I request that any guest delivering an invocation abide by the following:
1) invocation be: brief (60-90 seconds),
2) focuses on the purpose of the invocation (namely meeting of elected officials for the purpose of making decision regarding the future of the community electing them); reflection on the values of that community; reflection by elected officials of their shared ideals and common ends; and no discrimination with respect to faiths or beliefs.
3) invocations must not denigrate or disparage any religion, threaten damnation, be of a “preaching” nature, or proselytize or advance any particular faith or belief.
I hope this answers your questions. If you have further questions or would like to communicate further about this matter, I invite you to feel free to email me.