There's little that makes an honest person angrier than to see the innocent used as pawns in a political game by those who will stop at nothing to advance an agenda. What's unfolding in the northeast corner of Texas is nothing short of outrageous, and if my research is any indication, Bowie County isn't the only place it's happening.
Smart Girl Politics member Natalie Nichols, Bowie County's newly elected county clerk, hadn't been in office long before she figured out she'd likely have a relentless uphill battle to fight with the deeply entrenched good ole boys. They were none too happy when she began questioning some of the practices of the previous clerk, and made changes to be certain her office was in compliance with Texas law. She was told, in no uncertain terms, that she could be removed from office "at any time, for any thing, unchallenged."
Oh really? It seems the good ole boys of Bowie county haven't encountered a Smart Girl before, and Natalie isn't going down without a fight. "I didn't seek office to gain a career. I ran for office to make a difference," Nichols told World Net Daily's Pamela Geller last week. She's very clear about one thing: she ran as a Christian conservative in a predominantly Democrat community, and she'll conduct herself in office as a Christian conservative--even if it means her removal.
Nichols now finds herself in her first public battle with the good ole boys of Bowie County, and needs our support. It seems the boys don't particularly care (for fear of an ACLU lawsuit) to record the fact that they open each session with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.
It all started on June 13, 2011, when Nichols was in Dallas for annual training. In her absence, the court made the decision that because the judge doesn't specifically use the phrase "call the meeting to order", the fact that a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance were conducted during the meeting can be stricken from the record. They voted 3 to 1 to remove the prayer and pledge from the minutes, and went on with business as usual.
**Watch the video of the June 13, 2011 Commissioner's Court meeting during which this occurred.**
**Take a look at the minutes, where Judge Lacy took the liberty to scratch through the portion they voted to remove.**
There's one minor detail they neglected to take into consideration: no law exists in the state of Texas that supports this decision. In fact, Nichols is the only one authorized by law to make any changes to the minutes.
Sterling Lacy, the Bowie County Judge at the center of this controversy, makes clear that he sees to it the prayer and pledge are conducted before the meetings are called to order, so that they can be excluded from the official record. When Nichols returned from training and discovered what had happened, she refused to comply, explaining that she is the only person authorized by law to alter the minutes, and for her to intentionally exclude something that actually took place would mean falsifying the record. That's something that's never going to happen under her watch.
**Hear part of the story as it's explained by Natalie on the Rusty Humphries Show.**
**Watch Natalie confront the court about the decision they made to alter the minutes.**
Fast forward one month to July 11, 2011--Judge Sterling Lacy, and his good ole boys weren't too happy with their County Clerk. In a bizarre turn of events, Lacy addressed the court concerning the removal of the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer from court records. He began to make claims that not only had the prayer and pledge been removed from the minutes, but that "the opening ceremony of devotional" was also missing.
Yes, you're understanding that correctly--he made the implication that Nichols deleted not only the prayer and pledge from court records, but he also implied that she had removed an opening devotional. Not only was he misleading the public by making the implication she deleted something the court had instructed her to delete, he was implying she removed something that was still present in the minutes. After hearing Judge Lacy's implications, Nichols spoke up. "The prayer and the pledge are most definitely there!"..."Ma'am, please do not interrupt the court," replied Lacy, at which time Nichols spoke again..."But you're lying!"
Realizing immediately that she had acted unprofessionally, Nichols issued a public apology--not for her stance, but for the interruption. She received no reply from Judge Sterling Lacy that day.
It seems the judge was contemplating his next move, which wasn't clear to Nichols until she received a phone call from a local reporter three days later. During the call, the reporter informed Nichols that Judge Lacy had filed a criminal complaint against her--one that, if charged, could mean a $2,000 fine and up to 6 months in jail--and requested that the Sheriff initiate an investigation. While her Chief Deputy has been questioned, her records subpoenaed, and a claim has been made by the Sheriff that the investigation is 90% complete, Nichols has yet to hear from his office. The Sheriff, within two days of being asked to initiate an investigation, told local reporters he had made the decision to give his findings to the D.A. and would request that it be sent to a grand jury. This, and he's stillnever had a single conversation with Natalie Nichols.
I don't know about you, but I'm starting to think Sheriff James Prince may be one of those good ole boys.
Judge Sterling Lacy made the statement last week that Nichols doesn't understand the "unintended consequences" of her actions in this case. I wonder if Judge Lacy has considered the unintended consequences of his own actions? Have we really come to the place in this country when even a Republican judge is too much of a wimp to take a stand for something so simple, yet so meaningful, as an opening prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance? What about the unintended consequences of the actions Bowie County citizens took when they voted for Sterling Lacy? Did they intend to put someone so weak into a position of such power? Are we going to continue to stand by and allow this kind of behavior to go unchecked, or are we going to hold men like Judge Sterling Lacy accountable for the unintended consequences of a few very unwise, far reaching decisions? Are we going to allow one of our Smart Girlsto be bullied into falsifying official court records, just because her colleagues are too weak to stand up to organizations like the ACLU who would destroy the very fabric of this nation?
I certainly hope not. It is our hope that Natalie's story will serve as a reminder to all of us here at Smart Girl Politics. Taking a stand for what is right is always best, no matter what the unintended consequences may be.
This post was originally published at Smart Girl Politics Action.