BEAUMONT, Texas — City officials in Beaumont, Texas have reversed their initial prohibition against police officers using the police station for a Bible study.
According to reports, a group of officers had been holding the Bible study at the police station during their lunch break one to two times a month for the past two years.
“If we have a moral compass to study, it makes us better public servants,” co-founder Sergeant Burt Moore told reporters. “If we truly study [the Bible], it makes us better police officers and we treat everyone, no matter who we deal with, as we wish to be treated.”
However, last month, City Attorney Tyrone Cooper concluded that the building could not be used for studying the Scriptures because it was a public facility. City manager Kyle Hayes also said that “city buildings are for public purposes and to conduct city business … therefore, city policy prohibits all non-business activities so that we treat everyone the same.”
Police Chief James Singletary was subsequently advised to no longer allow the study to be held at the police station.
On Friday, several officers, including Sergeant Burt Moore, Officer Tony Harding, Detective Anthony Goudeau and Sergeant Barry Scarborough, announced that they planned to file a lawsuit if city officials continued to deny use of the building for the Bible study.
“My clients’ sincere religious beliefs and convictions have been violated by the City of Beaumont’s demand to stop holding a voluntary Bible study during their lunch hour at the police station,” said Briscoe Cain, an attorney representing the officers. “The last place we hope would impose on the religious rights of its own citizenry is now oppressing the same police officers who place their lives on the line every day to serve and protect us. We intend to show the City this is one thin blue line they cannot cross.”
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also expressed his support for the officers.
“It is completely unacceptable for the City of Beaumont to ban its police officers from holding voluntary Bible studies during their lunch hour,” he said in a statement. “This is an infringement on their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”
On Friday evening, officials announced that they were overturning the ban and that the officers could continue to hold the Bible study at the police station.
“City Manager Kyle Hayes advised me that he had reviewed applicable case law, and police officers will be allowed to continue to meet in the police department conference room if it’s available during their lunch hour and hold bible study,” Councilman Mike Getz told local television station KDFM.
“It was more of a big misunderstanding,” Hayes also told the Associated Press. “I’m just glad it’s resolved.”
Officers were advised, however, that they could not use their work email addresses to invite others to the Bible study, which they had previously been doing.