By Roger Byron, Senior Counsel at First Liberty
As a religious freedom attorney, I interact with many public officials and local governments. Some are clients, others are opponents. In either case, many prove to be conflict adverse and fearful, particularly in matters involving religion and government.
This fear makes them easy targets for anti-religion special interest groups. The bullying tactics of these groups and their often ungrounded legal complaints frequently lead local officials to trample the rights of their citizens and employees to pacify the outrageous whims of anti-religion extremists.
Occasionally, however, a local government will pleasantly surprise me.
This is a government whose officials have the backbone not to show the white feather at the first sign of trouble. They understand duty and justice. They do not default to requiring employees or others to hide their faith based on little more than a letter sent by anti-religion activists.
Their dedication to doing right by their community leads them to investigate and assess for themselves these often meritless attacks, not capitulate at the expense of their citizens and employees and hope the problem goes away.
Their decisions result from due diligence and informed judgments, not political expediency and fear.
Taylor County may have just such a local government.
Recently, County Judge Downing Bolls and the Taylor County Commissioners Court received a letter from an anti-religion legal group. Among other things, the letter complained about various employee displays in county offices, such as crosses and Bible verses county employees display at their desks These displays, the group alleged, violate the law and must be removed.
The gauntlet, in the form of this letter, was thrown.