Glen Rose ISD has had, for some years, a practice of having one of the elected school board members offer up an invocation at the beginning of school board meetings. Doing so has been blatantly unconstitutional for some time, but most particularly since the Town of Greece v Galloway SCOTUS decision in 2014. At some point, GRISD school board, probably in 2017, decided to ask local ministers to come offer invocations, but still occasionally has had school board members do the prayer.
I asked in 2017 to be able to offer an invocation as well at the beginning of board meetings. I received back a reply from Wayne Rotan, superintendent of Glen Rose Independent School District on July 13, 2017. In it, he said
In response to your request to offer the invocation at a meeting of the Glen Rose ISD Board of Trustees, there is no board policy regarding the leading of the invocation. The procedures that are utilized limit persons leading the invocation to members of the Somervell County Minister's Fellowship or members of the Glen Rose ISD Board of Trustees.
I am unable to honor your request at this time. In the event of a procedural change, I will be certain to contact you.
I was quite busy for awhile but as I pondered the response, I wondered, since there was no policy, what the procedures were, who decided them, on what basis and what discussion. I did an open records request on June 20 2018
In a letter sent to me by Wayne Rotan on July 13, 2017, Mr. Rotan makes reference to “procedures that are utilized limit persons leading the invocation to members of the Somervell County Minister’s Fellowship or members of the Glen Rose ISD Board of Trustees”.
I am requesting copies of the procedures document(s) referenced above, any emails from Wayne Rotan or any board members referencing invocations or prayers, or referencing the Somervell County Minister’s Fellowship. Adding that I assume a list exists of the people on the Somervell County Minister’s Fellowship that someone at the school has; I would also like to see that list.
I received back a reply on Jun 29, 2018.
Per your request received 6/20/2018 for "copies of the procedure document(s) (reference in letter from Wayne Rotan dated July 13, 2017) any emails from Wayne Rotan or any board members referencing invocations or prayers or referencing the Somervell County Minister's Fellowship", there are no records responsive to your request.
Per your request for a list of people on the Somervell County Minister's Fellowhip, please see the included list of ministers of the Somervell County Minister's Fellowship that the school utlizes for invocations. This was the only document responsive to your request.
So, somehow magically, with no procedure (although Rotan had said there was a procedure), a minister shows up to do an invocation at a school board meeting with no communication with anyone at the school, including school board members.
I had called and spoken with a minister that is a member of the Somervell County Minister's Fellowship. He told me that someone had circulated a list last year and asked if there was anyone who wanted to go do a prayer at the school board. He also indicated that the person starting this list may be one that is no longer in this community. I asked that person if he specifically was in touch with any board members or if there was some procedure they followed, and the only thing he really knew about was the list, which, again, had ministers who voluntarily listed their names as willing to come.
According to the document Mr Rotan sent, the listing of churches was prepared by Kent Barnes. He is apparently an associate minister at First Baptist Church in Glen Rose.
With the SCOTUS turning down hearing the Lund v Rowan Co NC case, which means that having prayers done by elected officials is unconstitutional, seems to me that would also mean that any time, say, Andy Snow, board member, did an invocation, he was thumbing his nose at the constitution.
Also wondered, since this list is, as told to me, an old list that hasn't been updated, are there ministers that are not on this list that have done invocations at the school board meeting?
Here are the people on this list
Frank Eshbach, Joe Scalisi, James Oliver, Horatio Berrnoes, John Roof, Kent Barnes, John Ferrer, Paul Burton, John Turner, Joe Phillips, Mary Mercer, Rinda Denson, and Phillip Voss.
So, comparing for 2017 and 2018 who has done the invocations and if they are on the list.
- March 27 2017- Dennis Moore is not on this list