County clerk, sheriff war on reason

FFRF took the Elbert County clerk and sheriff to task in Kiowa, Colo., for constitutional violations. Responding to a public officials’ group email about how clerks opposed to same-sex marriage should deal with license issuance, Clerk Dallas Schroeder wrote how he had hung a religious poster where “There is no way to miss it if you are in for a marriage license.”

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel called out Schroeder in a Nov. 20 letter to members of the email group, which consisted of several county clerks, a state senator and state representative.

“According to the email chain, some clerks or employees are uncomfortable issuing marriage licenses to gay couples,” Seidel wrote. “Hopefully you all know by now that you must issue licenses to gay couples whatever your personal religion.”

Seidel also took issue with the poster bearing a verse from 1 Corinthians. “Mr. Schroeder is displaying words from his religion’s holy book to issue a religious warning to all citizens in a government building. This is unconstitutional.”

Elbert County Sheriff Shayne Heap contributed this to the discussion: “These conversations are initiated to pervert the truth and do whatever is necessary to get the results you want,” Heap wrote. “I’m going to get back to work and I’m going leave the cross in my office, the Bible on my desk and I support the clerk’s constitutional rights.”

Cheyenne County Clerk Patricia Daugherty sent out the first inflammatory email Aug. 7: “I have a delilma [sic] in my office that I wish to get a little feedback on. In my office, everyone has personal objections to issuing same sex marriage licenses. . . . Am I the only office with this delima [sic]? What is your plan?”

Schroeder answered Aug. 9: “I pray for all the clerks across this country who have been made to make a terrible decision. I pray for our state legislators for them to use God’s Holy Bible as a guide to govern. Prayer is the only thing that will change the downward spiral our country is in.”

Schroeder told the group this story: “I talked with a local artist, who is also a Christian, and he created a beautiful poster which I have had hanging for about a year. There is no way to miss it if you are in for a marriage license. It is a picture of a bride standing on a hill with the groom walking up the hill to meet her. . .”

Schroeder wrote that he bought the poster with his own money, so in his mind it’s legal. “I am not denying anyone service. My thought process is that they have to see the poster and if they choose to violate God’s written Word, then that is on their head. I have warned them.”

Seidel said who paid for the poster is irrelevant. “If anything, it proves the point that Mr. Schroeder is abusing a public office to further his personal religion.”

Several other clerks have responded to FFRF that they either refused to hang the poster or have since removed it from government property.

Freedom From Religion Foundation