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November 17th, 2008
Freethought San Marcos: Is the mayor’s election God’s will?

By LAMAR HANKINS
Mercury Columnist

What public piety! The mayor believes that God willed her to be re-elected. When the initial votes were tabulated and it appeared that she had a majority, Narvaiz said “I have to give all the glory to God. I will always give the glory to God.”

I was brought up to believe that God had more important things to do than meddle in the outcome of a football game or in an election for mayor of San Marcos. Actually, I was taught that God created us and gave us free will to exercise in any manner we chose, though, apparently, he hoped we would choose wisely. Of course, I realize that Mayor Susan Narvaiz and I must come from different religious backgrounds, which bothers me not in the least. What does concern me is what the mayor has planned for San Marcos in the name of her religion.

It appears more and more that Mayor Narvaiz is a theocrat or a dominionist intent on having her brand of religion – some type of Christianity, apparently–take over this city. Dominionists generally disclaim the separation of religion and government, and believe that the government should be run by the principles of their form of Christian faith.

A year ago, she instituted an invocation near the beginning of city council meetings, given by those who follow her brand of Christianity (which excludes Jews, Muslims, as well as a lot of Christians and many others). City councils got along for nearly 33 years without the need to invoke a deity before taking care of the people’s business. There is no evidence that an invocation has made any improvement in city government during the past year. Since the mayor’s god doesn’t seem to be helping our elected political leaders do their jobs, maybe its time for the city council to open its meetings by praying to some other gods.

I don’t know the exact brand of religion the mayor follows, and I wouldn’t care except that she appears to have been running to become Pastor of the City of San Marcos, or the city’s religious guru. In reality, she was running for the secular position of mayor of the City of San Marcos – a city established under the laws of Texas and the United States and created by a charter written and approved by the citizens of this community. Whether the writers were religious, we don’t know. What we do know is that there are no religious requirements for the office and there is nothing in the charter about giving the mayor the duty or the right to promote any religion.

The mayor’s religious views are irrelevant, unless she is trying to create a city controlled by the religious community, which could be her plan. If God is telling her what to do, I’d like to get in on the conversation, but I don’t know what channel she is using. Is this the God of the Old Testament she is talking to? Or is it the God of the New Testament, made known to us in the person of Jesus? Or is it possible that I have misunderstood her religious choice and she is communicating with the God known as Allah? Or perhaps it is Krishna whose will she knows so well.

I’ve heard that there are some Wiccans in San Marcos. Does the mayor know the Will of the Wiccan God, which could be the god known as the “Horned God,” or the goddess called the “Triple Goddess,” both of which are part of a Pantheistic Godhead? This gets very complicated, I know, but since the mayor is following “God’s Will” in her duties as mayor, perhaps the citizens deserve to know more about the god whose will she is carrying out.

I know that there is a Buddhist temple in Hays County, and there are followers of Buddhism who live in San Marcos. While Buddhists don’t believe in a personal god, they do have a pantheistic view of the world. Is it the will of this force of nature that the Mayor communes with and whose will she senses?

Since Mayor Narvaiz wants to promote her religion through her position as mayor, maybe she owes the citizens of San Marcos a full explanation about just what religious views, doctrines, and beliefs she will be promoting. I would like to know what her god is telling her to do about all the issues with which the city must deal. What is she being told to do by her god about the potholes on Broadway? Or curb cuts on the Wonder World Extension? What is god’s will about the drainage problems on the south side of town? How many more millions of dollars in tax relief does her god want, given to the corporate stores being built on South Interstate=35? Does her god approve of some of those stores selling revealing tank tops? I know for a fact that birth control pills and condoms are sold in pharmacies and other stores throughout San Marcos, which many of us believe promotes sexual promiscuity. Are these sales her god’s will? What is her god’s will about more than two unrelated individuals living together in certain parts of town? And what is her god’s will about allowing people to drink two hours longer each night in San Marcos?

It is time for politicians to stop using their gods to manipulate religious people, intimidate other elected officials into allowing this religious manipulation, and using their elected positions to promote their brand of religion. This is a pluralistic community, with people representing a multitude of religious persuasions, including no religion. There are twenty-two major world religions, many of which have adherents in San Marcos. Our city government should not represent one part of one of those religions.

Based on our legal system, city government should not represent any religion, nor should it promote any religion. This I know because the Supreme Court told me so. This city should not be governed by the principles of the mayor’s form of Christian faith. It should be governed according to the laws and the constitution of the State of Texas and of the United States.

It is time for other public officials and other citizens to step up and tell Mayor Narvaiz to promote her religion on her own time, if she wishes, but not on the people’s time. Citizens should not be left out of city government because of their religious beliefs or because they are offended by the mayor’s officially conspicuous religiosity.

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25 thoughts on “Freethought San Marcos: Is the mayor’s election God’s will?

  1. This is absolutely juvenile. The mayor has not imposed her religious beliefs on anybody else by her statement; it does not constitute any kind of violation of the Constitution’s establishment clause or the principle of separation of church and state. If you want to take issue with invocations at City Council meetings, there are First Amendment grounds for that argument, but that’s not the thrust of this post. It seems mostly to be ridiculing the mayor simply for expressing her faith in divine providence, a concept that is a basic tenet, in some form or other, of all the Abrahamic religious traditions, and the expression of which is neither extraordinary nor—again—a violation of anybody’s right to freedom from religion. The mayor’s constitutional right to express her faith—this particular tenet of which she shares with the vast majority of Americans—does not end as soon as she enters the public square.

  2. My column has nothing to do with the Mayor “entering the public square.” It is about her use of her secular elected position to advance her personal religious views.

  3. I have never seen her make anyone do anything religious. So what if she has strong religious beliefs and lets them be known. That is her right under freedom of speach. Good grief man, let’s hear something other than a Susan bitch fest. Don’t like her, don’t vote for her…oops, you probably didn’t…but guess what, your man lost. That is what democracy is about. She is still YOUR mayor, just like Obama is MY president, even though I did not vote for him.

  4. Oh hell, Susan had a pastor swear her in at tonight’s council meeting. I bet Lamar is going to have a real coronary over this! I bet he writes about it for months! :}

  5. I believe that requiring those in attendance to participate in prayer at a city council meeting qualifies as something religious. For your information, I supported no candidate in the mayor’s race. What I am writing about has nothing to do with who won or lost. It has to do with a public official using her elected position to push her religion on all of San Marcos. All I am asking is that she practice her freedom of religious speech on her own time, not while she is being mayor of all the citizens, most of whom do not belong to her religious group. This is not personal with her. I would take the same position with regard to any politician, and I have done so, including with respect to President-elect Obama.

  6. Well, Christians vote…

    And sorry suzy, but spending upwards of $5 per vote is not “God’s providence.” it’s more like Lincoln’s.

  7. Lamar,

    I still do not see where she is pushing her version of religion on anyone. Your comment “most of whom do not belong to her religious group” is not on track. The only thing she even mentions is Christianity and I would venture to guess that the majority of San Marcos citizens are christian in some form or another. Even then, she is not making anyone do anything. So someone offers a prayer before council. They also do the pledge too. What about the people who do not believe in pledging to anyone other than their deity? Are their rights being violated by saying the pledge and should it be abolished too? I would also guess that you are one of those maligned folks that think we should take the traditional “In God We Trust” off of our currency too, right?

  8. JustaDog’s 10:23 pm 11/17 post brings up an interesting point. The Texas Government Code prescribes the persons who have the authority to administer the oath of office. Pastors do not have that authority because we are not a theocracy, yet:

    Sec. 602.002. OATH MADE IN TEXAS. An oath made in this state may be administered and a certificate of the fact given by:
    (1) a judge, retired judge, or clerk of a municipal court;
    (2) a judge, retired judge, senior judge, clerk, or commissioner of a court of record;
    (3) a justice of the peace or a clerk of a justice court;
    (4) a notary public;
    (5) a member of a board or commission created by a law of this state, in a matter pertaining to a duty of the board or commission;
    (6) a person employed by the Texas Ethics Commission who has a duty related to a report required by Title 15, Election Code, in a matter pertaining to that duty;
    (7) a county tax assessor-collector or an employee of the county tax assessor-collector if the oath relates to a document that is required or authorized to be filed in the office of the county tax assessor-collector;
    (8) the secretary of state;
    (9) an employee of a personal bond office if the oath is required or authorized by Article 17.04 or by Article 26.04(n) or (o), Code of Criminal Procedure;
    (10) the lieutenant governor;
    (11) the speaker of the house of representatives;
    (12) the governor;
    (13) a legislator or retired legislator;
    (14) the attorney general;
    (15) the secretary or clerk of a municipality in a matter pertaining to the official business of the municipality; or
    (16) a peace officer described by Article 2.12, Code of Criminal Procedure, if:
    (A) the oath is administered when the officer is engaged in the performance of the officer’s duties; and
    (B) the administration of the oath relates to the officer’s duties.

    The Mayor’s oath would be valid if the “pastor” who administered it was also one of these other persons.

  9. What if the pastor’s administration of the oath were ceremonial and the official oath were sworn in private?

  10. Oh YS, you know you can’t use logic to shoot down Lamar’s argument. 🙂

    In all seriousness… if this were Susan’s first term, I would agree with the idea that the oath of office should be administered by someone as outlined in the state Code that Lamar quoted. HOWEVER… this being her third time around the block, the oath of office really is just a ceremonial formality. As long as she’s not making a mockery of the process, I’m all for it. It doesn’t mean that she’s going to go write an ordinance that the non-Christians be thrown in jail the second she sits back down at the dais. Get a grip.

  11. I am constantly amazed about some people’s reactions to being provided with a copy of a statute that regulates the behavior of public officials. Why are simple facts so threatening to some people? I don’t know if Susan Narvaiz was sworn in later by a legally appropriate official, but I’m also not going to waste my time checking into it. If the City Council and the City Clerk are incapable of managing their business according to the law, we are in worse trouble than I can imagine. I would not have even thought about her swearing in if JustaDog had not mentioned it.

  12. I don’t care how religious she is. I just don’t want her to interpret the bible saying “be prosperous”, to mean she should give $6 million of our tax money to bail-out shopping center developers in the name of prosperity.

  13. Not to get off-topic, but what is so hard for people to understand about the tax incentive?? It’s not like a check is just getting cut by the City without any stipulations.

    Bad economy? Guess what – if the stores close, there’s no sales tax being collected. And if there’s no sales tax being collected by the project, there’s none of it to be given back. The developer is left holding the bag.

    And if we didn’t make this deal, do you think those stores would have stayed at Springtown? I don’t think so. 12 miles away, a new JC Penney’s is opening at FM 306 and I-35 in New Braunfels. And we’ve all seen the explosion of retail development in Kyle, particularly at 1626 and I-35 – just 10 miles to the north.

    If San Marcos had punted on this deal, I’d imagine this new store would be going in Kyle instead of here. In which case – not only do we lose out on NEW tax revenue from a pristine, new retail development… we lose existing revenues to neighboring cities.

    You have to spend some money to make money. Business 101.

  14. Wow, there is someone out there that actually understands basic economics and tax incentives. Good post Joe!

  15. This is where it is important to get the facts straight. The project was already under construction when the additional tax incentives were given. The reason for the additional tax incentives was that the project had miscalculated its costs of construction. If they did not figure accurately the cost of the needed drainage improvements, maybe they should have looked to their design engineers to make up the shortfall, not the taxpayers.

    There is no reason to believe that the company would have walked away from the project after spending millions already, so suggestions that the project would just move to Kyle make no sense to me. The original financial backers would have lost most of their investment if the project had shut down before completion and was left abandoned. The developers would never again be able to find financing for another project. The most likely outcome is that additional private financing would have been found and the return on the original investment would have been stretched out a few more years.

    This project located here because this was deemed the best location for it. Kyle and New Braunfels are getting their own retail projects for the same reason. These developments want to be here because their market research shows that this is a good location. The claims that were made to support giving them more tax incentives could not be supported with data. They made an emotional argument and a majority of the city council was afraid not to give them what they wanted. Kudos to the three members who were not swayed by the emotionalism.

  16. Lamar is absolutely right! This deal was “Lipstick on a Pig”. The city lost millions unnecessarily. Sorry, but the mayor and council got it wrong and should be called on it.

  17. In response to JustaDog’s last post: “Are you FOR anything the council or mayor does????”

    I don’t approach public policy issues from that perspective. I am concerned about what the evidence shows. Emotional arguments like “if we don’t get what we are asking for, this project will go under or we’ll move it somewhere else” is not evidence-based. I plan to deal with more development incentive issues in the future and I’ll get into the details then.

  18. Lamar, You did not answer my question :). I will ask again…Are you for ANYTHING the Mayor or Council does? With so many complaints, why aren’t you running for office???

  19. Why was it okay for Gaylord Bose and John Tomides to be sworn in by Preacher Montoya? Same thing , different day !

  20. I’m a columnist, not a politician and I don’t have any interest in becoming a politician. Besides, I sat through 5 1/2 years of city council meetings when I was city attorney. That’s enough for one lifetime.

    I didn’t say anything was wrong with whoever swore anyone in. I just pointed out that state law prescribes who has authority to administer oaths. Ministers are not in the list. If someone purports to administer an oath under Texas law, and they are not authorized to do so, we can assume that they are just play-acting. In all likelihood, the City Clerk did the official task of swearing-in these elected officials. If it is of further interest, you might call her and ask.

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