BEAUMONT – Update: A Beaumont city councilman said Friday evening it is his understanding the city will allow a group of police officers to continue holding a Bible study at the police station. The report from Councilman Michael Getz follows a news conference in which the group of officers announced notice of potentially suing the city over the issue.
The group cited what members called a violation of the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Earlier, city leaders had told group members they could not use a conference room or other parts of the police station for their off-duty meetings because it subjected the city to legal exposure. In a statement, the city said it did not want to get into the business of choosing which groups get access to use city facilities for “non-business activities.”
Sergeant Burt Moore, Officer Tony Harding, Detective Anthony Goudeau, and Sergeant Barry Scarborough of the Beaumont Police Department say they have used the facility for a voluntary Bible study during their lunch hour for years.
Other city employees have sometimes also participated.
“No one has ever complained,” said Sgt. Burt Moore, a co-founder of the Bible study known as the Faith and Fellowship Bible Study.
“We have officers and other city employees from a variety of ethnicities and faith backgrounds that attend. I feel like the City is unfairly targeting us,” continued Sgt. Burt Moore.
The Attorney for the four Beaumont Police Officers said, “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. A Texas town is the last place we thought would impose on the religious rights of its citizenry, much less oppress the 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.”