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Article Calendar

September 2020
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Secretary of State Tre Hargett Encourages Voters to Prepare Now to Vote in November Election

Press release submitted by Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Secretary of State Tre Hargett is encouraging voters to prepare now to vote in the presidential election on Nov. 3. Tennesseans should make sure their voter registration is up-to-date and make decisions about whether they will vote in-person or absentee by-mail if eligible.

“We want every eligible Tennessean to be ready to vote in the November election,” said Secretary Hargett. “Whether voting in-person or by-mail we want your vote to count.”

Tennessee’s generous early voting period starts Oct. 14 and lasts until Oct. 29.

Voters who choose to vote in-person during early voting or on Election Day will see the same precautions used during the August election. Voters should expect to see signs with further safety instructions at their polling locations. Poll officials will be supplied with gowns, face shields, gloves and other PPE. All poll officials will be wearing face coverings and are trained in social distancing protocols. Voters will experience precautions taken such as single-use pens, disposable stylus to select their candidate and sanitizer at the polling location.

For voters, voting absentee by-mail county election commissions will start mailing out ballots in September. Election officials are currently taking steps to finalize the November ballot, including certifying August election results as well as waiting on both major parties to officially confirm their presidential nominees.

In Tennessee, voters must have a legal reason listed in the law to be eligible to vote absentee by-mail. Some of the most common legal reasons are voters who are 60 or older and voters who will be out of their counties during the election.

Eligible voters who have a special vulnerability to COVID-19 due to an underlying illness, physical disability, or other health condition and who cannot appear at the polling place on Election Day due to this condition may vote by absentee ballot under the “illness or physical disability” reason. Likewise, eligible voters who are caretakers to individuals with a special vulnerability may vote by absentee ballot under the “caretaker” reason.

Voters should consult trusted guidance from medical experts and use common sense in determining whether they have a special vulnerability. The CDC provides a website with helpful information that voters may wish to consult.

“If you make your request now to vote absentee by-mail, counties will be prepared to send you the ballot as soon as it is available,” said Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins. “Once you receive your ballot, vote it and mail it back in as soon as possible so it is ready to be counted on Election Day.”

Absentee by-mail ballots must be returned by-mail. This includes the U.S. Postal Service and services like FedEx and UPS. Each state is different when it comes to election law. Tennessee law does not permit voters to turn in their ballots in-person or for the use of drop boxes.For the latest information on the Nov. 3 election, follow our social media channels Twitter: @SecTreHargett, Facebook: Tennessee Secretary of State and Instagram: @tnsecofstate.

For more information on the voting process, go to GoVoteTN.com or call the Division of Elections toll-free at 1-877-850-4959.

Press Release: Defend Our Police and Defend Our Nation

by John Rose, U.S. Representative – Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District

Low morale is permeating police departments across our nation as protesters repeatedly vilify, demonize, and verbally attack the thin blue line.

The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers was a shameful and unacceptable crime that has stunned our nation. I grieve for the Floyd family and for the pain that Mr. Floyd’s death has caused all Americans.

I want Americans of all races, backgrounds, and circumstances to have equal opportunities and to be treated fairly and equally under the law. However, it is a mistake to conclude that the riots, looting, and widespread violence since George Floyd’s death are moving the conversation forward to remedy racial disparities within sectors of our society. Instead, the tragedy that is Mr. Floyd’s death has been hijacked by radicals who are working to destabilize America through bullying and choreographed chaos.
We must ask ourselves what kind of society are we becoming? I reject the idea that our local police forces or America as a whole are inherently or irredeemably racist. America is not a perfect nation, but no nation is. And, America has come a long way in its relatively short history—all the while leading the rest of the world on humanity’s long march toward freedom.

We recognize that two things can be true at once: that we have made progress, but that progress can still be made. That discrimination exists, but that our nation is not systemically discriminatory. Abolitionism, Women’s Suffrage, and the Civil Rights Movement all suggest we are a nation that learns and grows from the blights of our past. And, while the fight to stamp out racism everywhere it exists is ongoing, we have taken the critical steps, from a law and order perspective, to address that challenge.
The “defund the police” movement and calls for “cop free zones” are part of a dangerous plan to undermine civil society. Lawlessness without police equals crime, murder, and the destruction of our democracy. Defunding the police would make America less safe and is a dangerous and unworkable solution to a very serious problem.

I will not support the defunding of our police or the dismantling of our police. We will not turn our streets over to lawless criminals and gangs.

President Trump recently shed light on the fact that Executive Branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars on “training” where Federal employees are told that “virtually all White people contribute to racism” or where they are required to say that they “benefit from racism.” The founding of our nation is based on the principle of fair and equal treatment of all Americans, but that is not being reflected in our very own bureaucracy. State and local governments need to be focused on combatting issues in their specific communities and it is up to Legislative and Executive Branches to fix these issues plaguing our federal agencies. As your representative, I have the responsibility to understand problems facing our country and determine if a legislative solution is the right direction, and if so, take action.

I support open, fair, and rational public debates about how to minimize opportunities for discrimination, maximize accountability, and do our best to keep Americans safe from all threats of harm. But if we do not support our police and stand up to this unprecedented violence, we will lose our democracy. We must use our freedom to defend our freedom or we will lose our freedom.

Congressman John Rose represents the Sixth Congressional District of Tennessee.

Board of Education Releases Statement on ACLU Lawsuit Settlement

The Smith County Board of Education released the following statement on September 16, 2020.

The lawsuit filed against the Smith County Board of Education by the ACLU on behalf of Smith County residents Kelly Butler and his two minor children, and Jason and Sharona Carr and their two minor children was resolved on September 14, 2020 when United States District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr. entered his Final Consent Decree and Order.

The Final Consent Decree and Order only requires that the Board adjust certain of its current practices to comply with the mandates of the First Amendment, while at the same time continuing to ensure that its students’ rights to freely exercise their religious beliefs be protected including their right to engage in constitutionally appropriate prayer.  All actions that will be taken by the Board are in compliance with the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer and Religious Expression in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools issued on January 16, 2020.

Under the terms of the Final Consent Decree and Order, the lawsuit will be dismissed.  The Complaint filed to initiate the lawsuit made numerous allegations and asserted claims that the Board violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution through its “customs, policy and practice.” Most of the Complaint’s 82 paragraphs of allegations were determined to have no factual support, but some allegations potentially violated the requirements of the First Amendment as determined by the United States Supreme Court.  Only because of this and its desire to ensure that its students’ rights to freely exercise their religious beliefs including their right to engage in constitutionally appropriate prayer continue to be protected, that the Board entered into the Final Consent Decree and Order that was entered by the Court.  This resolution ensures Constitutionally appropriate prayer remains in schools.

Press Release: Representative John Rose on Violent Crime in Middle Tennessee

by John Rose, U.S. Representative – Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representative John Rose (TN-06) issued the following statement on the violent rampage that took place in Coffee County, Tennessee on September 13, 2020:

I am deeply saddened by the tragedy that took place in Coffee County, Tennessee where two lives were taken during a heinous kidnapping and carjacking. Our prayers are with the injured victims and the families of all the victims who have experienced the full force of this tragedy during this difficult time.

“As Tennesseans, we have not and will not accept this kind of disgusting violence in our communities. I would like to thank our state and local law enforcement for swiftly and dutifully responding to this appalling attack. At a time when police forces around the nation are themselves under attack, I want our law enforcement officers to know that I will continue to support the Thin Blue Line.

“As our community pushes onward, I believe now more than ever that we must stand together as Americans unified in prayer for our state and nation.”

U.S. Representative John Rose represents Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District and resides in Cookeville with his wife, Chelsea, and their son Guy. The Sixth District includes Cannon, Clay, Coffee, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Robertson, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, White, and Wilson counties as well as portions of Cheatham and Van Buren counties.

Casey Elrod announces candidacy for Smith County Commission

Release submitted by candidate

 

To the citizens of Carthage,

My name is Casey Elrod, and I am officially announcing my candidacy for the open seat on the Smith County Commission representing the 6th District. We are blessed to live in a community that not only has scenic beauty and history, but a place that has genuine care and concern for one another.

I am blessed to know many of you, and I look forward to meeting with even more. For those whom I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet, I am a life-long resident of Smith County. My father is Jimmy Elrod of Chestnut Mound, and my mother is Cynthia West of Carthage. I am a proud graduate of Smith County High School. I attended Tennessee Tech University and received a Bachelor of Science degree with highest honors. I later attended Nashville School of Law and graduated in May of 2017. Following law school, I attended the Trial Lawyers College at the Thunderhead Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming.

I currently practice law with fellow Smith County native Jeff Roberts in Nashville. I married my wife Kelly Bivens Elrod, also of Smith County, in November of 2018.

To say this year has been difficult for our region is an understatement. We have suffered through a devastating tornado outbreak and continue to suffer through the worst pandemic in three generations. So far, our community has been resilient through all of the adversity we have been dealt with.

The coming years will bring new challenges to our community. The full extent of the economic fallout from COVID-19 is still on the horizon. Knowing the challenges ahead, I felt compelled to get involved in public service and make a difference in the advancement and betterment of our beloved county.

The practice of law has afforded me the opportunity to work with and for many folks around the middle Tennessee area. The majority of my clientele consists of blue-collar men and women who have suffered misfortunes and disruption in their lives.  I take great pride in representing my fellow neighbors and friends in their times of need.

I will make this promise to the citizens of Carthage and Smith County as a whole. I will listen to you. I will fight for you. I will always be a phone call or message away.

I humbly ask for your support and vote on November 3rd. Feel free to reach out to me via email at cwelrod42@gmail.com or on Facebook. God Bless.

Special Called Smith County Commission Meeting – August 31, 2020

The Smith County Board of Commissioners held a special-called meeting on the evening of Monday, August 31, 2020. 

In order to maintain recommended social distance, the Commission met inside the Smith County Ag Center. 

You can watch the full meeting below.

Thanks to Powell & Meadows Insurance Agency for sponsoring the live broadcast of this meeting.

Subscribe to Smith County Insider’s YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on meeting coverage, business spotlights, video features, and more!

The Smith County Board of Commissioners meets on the second Monday of every month except December. Typically, commission meetings are held in the General Sessions Courtroom of the Smith County Jail and Courts Facility, located at 322 Justice Drive in Carthage.

All meetings are open to the public and are streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/smithcountyinsider/.

Branden Bellar appointed to fill vacant General Sessions Judge seat

During the August 31st special called meeting of the Smith County Commission, former county attorney Branden Bellar was appointed to fill the vacant seat for Smith County General Sessions Judge.

Qualified candidates had the opportunity to submit their names for consideration for the empty seat. Before Monday night’s meeting, Branden Bellar submitted a letter expressing his interest in filling the vacant seat. No other names were submitted before or during the meeting. Branden Bellar was appointed by a unanimous vote of the twenty present commissioners.

Branden Bellar is sworn in as the new General Sessions Judge

The seat became empty after Judge Michael Collins won election as Circuit Court Judge for the 15th Judicial District in the special election for the seat in August. Judge Collins was sworn in for his new role on the afternoon of August 31st. As such, Branden Bellar was sworn into office by County Mayor Jeff Mason following the meeting and will begin serving immediately.

List of qualified candidates for November 3, 2020 election

Voters in Smith County will have the next opportunity to head to the polls on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. 

Voters will cast their votes in the State General Election, County Special Elections, Carthage Municipal Election, and Gordonsville Municipal Election.

The Voter Registration Deadline is October 5th. Early voting for the November election will be held from October 14th through October 29th. Absentee ballots may be requested from August 5th through October 27th.

At the state level, the following offices will appear on the ballot: U.S. President/Vice-President, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives – 6th District, TN House of Representatives – 40th District.

At the county level, Smith County citizens in Districts 3 and 6 will vote for a County Commissioner to fill unexpired terms.

Voters who live in Carthage will vote for three alderman seats.

Residents of Gordonsville will cast ballots for mayor and two aldermen.

Below is a complete list of candidates that have qualified to appear on the November 2020 ballot. County and municipal candidates have until August 27th to withdraw. This information is sourced from the Smith County Election Commission and Tennessee Secretary of State.

State General Election

U.S. PRESIDENT/VICE-PRESIDENT

Donald Trump/Mike Pence (R)

Joe Biden/ Kamala Harris (D)

Jo Jorgensen/Jeremy “Spike” Cohen (I)

Kanye West /Michelle Tidball (I)

Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente/Darcy G. Richardson (I)

Alyson Kennedy/Malcolm Jarrett (I)

U.S. SENATE

Bill Hagerty (R)

Marquita Bradshaw (D)

Yomi “Fapas” Faparusi Sr. (I)

Jeffrey Alan Grunau (I)

Ronnie Henley (I)

G. Dean Hill (I)

Aaron James (I)

Steven J. Hooper (I)

Elizabeth McLeod (I)

Kacey Morgan (I)

Eric William Stansberry (I)

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES – 6th District

 John Rose (R)

Christopher Martin Finley (D)

Christopher B. Monday (I)

TN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES – 40th District

Terri Lynn Weaver (R) 

Paddy Sizemore(I)

Smith County Special Election

COUNTY COMMISSION – New Middleton/Brush Creek/Hickman – District 3

Josh Brown

Stephanie H. McCaleb

COUNTY COMMISSION – Carthage – District 6

No candidate qualified. The qualifying period is currently ongoing. The petition deadline is September 9th. The withdrawal deadline is September 12th.

Carthage General Election

ALDERMAN (3 Seats)

Stephen Babcock

Barbara Kannapel

Jesse Peters

Gordonsville General Election

MAYOR

Ronnie Burton

James M. (Duck) Gibbs

John Potts

ALDERMAN (2 Seats)

Sam Bowles

Jessica Dillard-Biggs

For additional information, please visit https://www.sos.tn.gov/elections or https://www.smithcountyelection.com/.

Be sure to keep an eye on Smith County Insider’s Politics Page for future local political and election news!

Special called Commission meeting set to appoint vacant judge seat

The Smith County Commission will have a special called meeting on Monday, August 31, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. at the Smith County Ag Center to fill the vacancy of the Smith County General Sessions Judge seat. This seat on the bench has become vacant as a result of Judge Michael Collins election as judge for the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial District. Judge Collins will take the bench for the Circuit Court beginning September 1st.

Names of qualified candidates may be submitted for consideration to Smith County Mayor Jeff Mason, or any qualified candidate may appear in person at the special called meeting without a written submission. This appointment will be to serve the unexpired term through August 2022. At the time of writing, Branden Bellar, former county attorney, is the only qualified candidate to submit his/her name for consideration.

Sam Bowles announces candidacy for Gordonsville City Council

Citizens of Gordonsville, my name is Samuel Bowles and I am I am excited and proud to throw my hat in the ring and officially announce my candidacy for Gordonsville City Council. I look forward to representing everyone in Gordonsville fairly. I will run a positive campaign, one in which I will display integrity and honesty in all my interactions and treat all that I encounter with the utmost respect.

I was born and raised in Smith County and have lived in Gordonsville for the past several years with my wife Jennifer Payne-Bowles. We have two daughters, Makensie and Callie, who both attend Gordonsville High School. My parents are Peggy Cowan Bowles of Gordonsville and the late Jerry Bowles of Sparta and formerly of the Bradford Hill Community. My Late Grandparents were Sam and Margaret Cowan also of Gordonsville. I am a member of Gordonsville Church of the Nazarene and the Carthage Benevolent Masonic Lodge. I am graduated of Gordonsville High School and the University of Phoenix with a degree in Business Management. I am the Finishing Manager, Safe Quality Foods Practitioner, and IT Manager at Graphic Packaging International in Gordonsville, TN.

I will be a strong voice for the citizens of Gordonsville and will be diligent in making the best decisions for improving our community. If elected, I pledge to be honest, fair, dependable and put all my efforts into being a trusted council member of Gordonsville. It will be a great privilege to serve my community. I will do so by listening openly to the concerns of all our community members with the goal of building a better Gordonsville, one that thrives economically and maintains that “small town” feel. During this pandemic many of you I will not be able to see. Therefore, I am humbly asking for your vote on the November 3rd election. Feel free to reach out to me via email sam_bwls@yahoo.com or Facebook. Thank you in advance for your consideration and vote.

We live in a great city! Let’s work together to make it an even better place to live, work and play!

John Potts announces candidacy for Gordonsville City Mayor

My name is John Potts and I am running for the Mayor of Gordonsville. I have had the honor of being on the Gordonsville’s Town Council for the last four years. I’ve also been an employee of the town for eight years. This has given me a unique perspective on the needs and wants of the people in our community.

I have been blessed to grow up in a small town and know the importance of it’s small town values. However, Gordonsville is at the crossroad of change, both commercial and residential. We need a Mayor who wants Gordonsville to be on the forefront of growth while respecting the small town atmosphere. We need a Mayor who is plugged into the ideas and concerns of Gordonsville’s residents, and takes those concerns seriously. We need a Mayor who is involved and promotes community activities. It is important to be involved in the changes around us, as we have unique access to the interstate, and are located in a rapidly growing part of the state. As Mayor, I would see that Gordonsville works with and communicates better with the neighboring towns, county, and Upper Cumberland Region. We need to be better represented in the Chamber of Commerce, Upper Cumberland Development District, TDOT and the Industrial Board. I know we will have our growing pains, but I will do all I can to keep Gordonsville a great place to work and raise a family. I would like to better utilize governmental agencies that are available to small growing communities like ours.

I am married to my high school sweetheart, Heather, and we have two adult children. Ethan is 22 and Trinity is 18. Heather and I have both lived in Gordonsville since we were children. My entire family has graduated from Gordonsville High School. We are members of First Baptist Gordonsville.

Lastly, I am invested in our town as much as I possibly can be. I have been a part of events such as the Annual Gordonsville Halloween Bash, and look forward to more opportunities to highlight our town. As always, I will be available to the town and it’s residents. I look forward to being able to continue my service as the Mayor of Gordonsville. I would appreciate your support and vote on November 3rd.

Statement released by the Smith County Board of Education regarding ACLU lawsuit

 

On August 20, 2020, the Smith County Board of Education released the following statement:

The Smith County Board of Education was recently approached about settling a lawsuit filed on November 18, 2019 by the ACLU on behalf of Smith County residents Kelly Butler and his two minor children, and Jason and Sharona Carr and their two minor children.  The lawsuit makes allegations and asserts claims that the Board violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution through its “customs, policy and practice.”  The Establishment Clause prohibits a governmental entity such as the Board from “establishing” a religion.

The Complaint filed to initiate the lawsuit contains 82 paragraphs of factual allegations.  Through its investigation, the Board found no factual support for many of the allegations and denied the same.  The Board determined, however, that some allegations did have factual support and potentially violated the requirements of the First Amendment as determined by the United States Supreme Court.  Additionally, shortly after the filing of this lawsuit the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice on January 16, 2020, issued Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer and Religious Expression in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.  It could be argued the problematic allegations do not fully comply with that publication.

It was on the basis of these actions which constitute violations of the First Amendment and its desire to ensure that its students’ rights to freely exercise their religious beliefs continue to be protected, that the Board determined that it should engage in settlement discussions with the ACLU.  The settlement discussions are directed at bringing the Board’s current practices into compliance with the mandates of the First Amendment and reducing its exposure to the increasing attorneys’ fees incurred by the ACLU for which the Board will be responsible at the conclusion of the lawsuit.  Hopefully these negotiations will bring the lawsuit to a conclusion but will in no manner eliminate Constitutionally appropriate prayer in schools or infringe on the students’ rights to exercise their religious freedoms.  Any agreement will comply with the current federal administration’s guidance.

The lawsuit is currently set for trial on May 25, 2021.

City and County Elections Scheduled for November General Election

There will be multiple local elections held during the November General Election, including municipal elections for Carthage & Gordonsville and elections for two vacant county commission seats.

For Carthage, three city aldermen will be elected to four-year terms. In Gordonsville, a mayor and two city aldermen will be selected to four-year terms. Petitions are currently available for all municipal seats with a qualifying deadline of Noon, August 20th.

For Smith County, there are open seats for District 3 and District 6 commissioners. These seats became vacant when each respective office holder resigned due to moving outside of their districts. The unexpired terms for these seats will end on August 31, 2022. Petitions for each position are currently available. The qualifying deadline for the District 3 seat is Noon on August 20. The District 6 seat qualifying deadline is Noon, September 9th.

In addition to the local elections, voters will also cast ballots for U.S. President/Vice-President, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives for the 6th Congressional District, and TN House of Representatives for the 40th District.

The voter registration deadline for the November election is October 5th. You may register to vote in person at the Smith County Election Commission or online through the Secretary of State’s office here.  Early voting is from October 14th – October 29th, and Election Day is November 3rd. For more about upcoming elections and voter information, visit https://www.smithcountyelection.com.

Be sure to follow Smith County Insider’s Politics Page for coverage of local political and election news!

August 2020 Meeting of the Smith County Commission

The Smith County Commission August meeting concluded with three resignations and a detailed report of Smith County Highway Department expenditures.   

Smith County Attorney Branden Bellar presented his resignation to Commissioners and the County Mayor stating it was “time for things to change”.  He expressed his gratitude for being able to serve the county for several years, but simply added it was a need for change that led him to his decision.   

A second resignation came from Carthage’s District 7 Commissioner Charles Kent.  Kent presented his resignation openly to fellow commissioners at the August 10 meeting.  He explained that he had recently moved out of District 7 and no longer qualified for his commissioner seat.  Kent served as District 7 commissioner for 10 years. 

The District 7 vacancy is open to qualifying applicants until the deadline of September 9, 2020 at noon.  

Kent’s resignation follows the July resignation of District 3 Commissioner Daniel Cripps.   

The District 3 vacancy is open to qualifying applicants until the deadline of August 20, 2020 at noon.   

Both District 7 and District 3 Commission seats will be placed on the November ballot.   

Recently re-elected Smith County Highway Department Road Supervisor Steve Coble presented a detailed report of monthly expenditures.  Coble hinted to the fact that he would deliver these reports at monthly commission meetings in the future.   

 A motion was passed to move forth funding for a salary study that was requested by the Budget and Finance Committee during budget talks.  County Mayor Jeff Mason explained the study would involve creating job titles and job descriptions to compare to other government and state positions in the private sector.  This would create an equivalent salary scale to determine future action. 

The County Mayor mentioned the salary study would be concluded in December or at the first of the year before budget talks in February and March 2021. 

Mayor Mason also addressed the status of the Baker Property.  Mason stated that he was not able to say a lot about the matter due to nondisclosure agreements, but noted positive movement on the sale or development of the property. 

The Smith County Commission held its August meeting on the evening of Monday, August 10, 2020. 

You can watch the full meeting below.

Thanks to Powell & Meadows Insurance Agency for sponsoring the live broadcast of this meeting.

Subscribe to Smith County Insider’s YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on meeting coverage, business spotlights, video features, and more!

The Smith County Board of Commissioners meets on the second Monday of every month except December.

Typically, commission meetings are held in the General Sessions Courtroom of the Smith County Jail and Courts Facility, located at 322 Justice Drive in Carthage. During the July 2020 Meeting of the Smith County Commission, commissioners voted to hold all meetings at the Smith County Ag Center until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

All meetings are open to the public and are streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/smithcountyinsider/.

Preliminary Injunction Issued, Possible Settlement in ACLU-School Board Lawsuit

On November 19 of last year, Kelly Butler and Sharona & Jason Carr, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a legal complaint against the Smith County Board of Education for the promotion of religion in the school system.

The original lawsuit filed by Butler and Carr alleges that Smith County school officials “routinely promoted and inculcated Christian religious beliefs by sponsoring religious activities and conveying religious messages to students” at Smith County High School and Smith County Middle School.

We previously reported that the Board of Education responded to the lawsuit, and a bench trial starting on May 21, 2021 was scheduled. Since that time, both parties have voluntarily entered into a Consent Preliminary Injunction (filed on April 16, 2020), pending a final settlement or a final ruling on the case. The Board of Education has admitted to several of the allegations asserted in the original complaint and likely violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The Preliminary Injunction includes the following restrictions:

  • School Officials are prohibited from promoting, advancing, endorsing participating in, or causing Prayers during or in conjunction with School Events for any school within the School District
  • School Officials in their Official Capacity are prohibited from planning, organizing, financing, promoting, or otherwise sponsoring in whole or in part a Religious Service.
  • The Defendants are prohibited from permitting School Officials at any school within the School District to promote their personal religious beliefs to students in class or during or in conjunction with a School Event
  • Private, non-school sponsored materials may be made available to students as part of a neutral limited or other public forum that may be used by outside groups to distribute materials.

In order to ensure enforcement of the injunction, the order states that all current School Officials and all persons who later become School Officials while it is in effect shall be provided a copy of the injunction. Faculty training and education including “the psychological and developmental impact of religious discrimination on students” is also required.

According to Federal Court documents, the parties have engaged in settlement discussions. Per a motion granted on August 6, 2020, a proposed settlement is scheduled to be presented and discussed by the Smith County Board of Education at its August 18 meeting.

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