San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

January 23rd, 2008
Faith-based argument

COMMENTARY
By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

SAN MARCOS – It takes ingenuity to oppose a popular project, and Charles O’Dell took a crack at it Tuesday morning before the Hays County Commissioners Court.

O’Dell argued that county funding for infrastructure to activate youth football fields at the Village in San Marcos would set a dangerous precedent because the Christian Fellowship of Police Officers (CFPO), which runs the youth league, is a faith-based organization.

“We have no disagreement with them,” O’Dell told the court as president of HaysCAN, which bills itself as a government watchdog operation. “But you set a terrible precedent when you fund this sort of project.”

O’Dell ended his remarks by saying that “any effort to divert parks bond money from its intended use will be challenged in the appropriate venue.”

The commissioners court then voted, 3-1, to approve a $1.6 million expenditure to fund infrastructure, including a short road that will make the football fields accessible at Reimer Avenue and Hunter Road. The court moved, despite controversy about its process, in order to ready the fields for the fall season.

The Police Athletic League (PAL) asked the city to help with some of its $30 million in parks bond money approved by voters last year. The PAL operated its league for years on land owned by the late Jim Neuhaus, who died last July. On his death, the Neuhaus estate informed the PAL that the fields no longer would be available, so the PAL sought a new location quickly.

O’Dell’s argument relies on an implication that the county is funding the CFPO, which does not hold. The CFPO does benefit, but it benefits only indirectly, and it benefits because its PAL benefits kids, more than 2,000 of whom participate in the San Marcos PAL programs.

In short, the commissioners aren’t funding a faith-based organization. They’re funding the City of San Marcos to build infrastructure for athletic fields used by a faith-based organization. Even if the CFPO brought the project to commissioners, it doesn’t follow that the commissioners are funding the CFPO. That’s a key difference.

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