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BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) — A dispute over whether Beaumont police officers can hold Bible study in a department building was resolved Saturday after city officials reversed course, deciding they will allow the study to continue.
The city had told the officers earlier this year to stop using a police department building for the Bible study, the Beaumont Enterprise reported (http://bit.ly/1mdkLaw ). The officers had been meeting once to twice a month for the voluntary group study at the Beaumont police station for the last two years.
Briscoe Cain, an attorney representing the four officers who lead the Bible study, criticized the city at a news conference Friday, saying the officers don't shed their First Amendment right to freedom of religion "when they enter the workplace."
City Manager Kyle Hayes had previously said that "city buildings are for public purposes and to conduct city business" and "therefore, city policy prohibits all non-business activities so that we treat everyone the same."
But on Saturday, Hayes announced the city would now allow the officers to hold their Bible study in the police department's conference room.
"It was more of a big misunderstanding," Hayes said. "I'm just glad it's resolved."
Burt Moore, a co-founder of the Bible study group, said his "moral compass" is rooted in Christianity, which he believes makes him a better cop.
"First of all, it's our right to have religious freedom in the workplace," said Moore. "If we have a moral compass to study, it makes us better public servants. ... If we truly study (the Bible), it makes us better police officers and we treat everyone, no matter who we deal with, as we wish to be treated."
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday had called for Beaumont to reverse the ban, calling the city's policy "completely unacceptable."
Information from: The Beaumont Enterprise, http://beaumontenterprise.com