WRITTEN STATEMENT BY SCOTT ARMEY
Denton County Commissioner
Before I begin, let me first take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to the Committee for their efforts to bring this hearing to Oklahoma City for the purpose of discussing the topic of "Religious Liberty and the Bill of Rights." Judging from the strong turn-out of participants, the people greatly appreciate the opportunity to offer their input on this issue without the expense of traveling to Washington, D.C.
Although the issue on which I will focus my testimony today will be the reinstatement of voluntary prayer in our public schools, I am very grateful to the Committee for their effort to bring this and other issues related to religious liberties before the public.
I also want to thank Congressman Istook for his commitment to the important issue of voluntary school prayer and for his effective leadership in this role.
My name is Scott Armey and I serve as a County Commissioner from Denton County, Texas.
It may seem odd that a County Commissioner would take up the cause of an issue that is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. But this is an issue that strikes a cord in the majority of Americans who believe the federal government has overstepped its boundaries and that it is past time to put the issue of school prayer back into the hands of the American people.
The effort to return voluntary prayer to the public schools is being fought by countless grassroots groups and organizations across this nation and I believe their diligence and hard work are beginning to produce results from our federal lawmakers.
The issue of school prayer may seem a lesser issue in Washington, D.C. when our Representatives are contending with issues such as the ever-expanding federal budget, overhauling the federal tax code, and addressing medicare and other entitlement programs, but I am here to testify today that from the feedback I have received from grassroots America during the past two years, the majority of Americans believe that this is an issue of critical importance.
I have had the privilege of spearheading a grassroots movement encouraging counties across the nation to pass resolutions supporting prayer in school. What began as one resolution in Denton County, Texas has now expanded across the State of Texas and to 39 states across the country.
In June of 1993, I introduced a resolution in the Denton County Commissioners Court calling for a grassroots movement to reinstate voluntary prayer in public schools. After our Commissioners Court unanimously approved the resolution, I suggested we send a request to every county in the state of Texas to consider a similar resolution as their show of support for this issue.
To date, 167 counties across the State of Texas have joined the grassroots movement. That number represents two-thirds of Texas' 254 counties.
With the strong showing of support by Texas counties, I was encouraged to expand this effort beyond Texas to counties in all the other states across the nation. In July of 1994, I raised private funds to mail a request to every county in the nation asking for support of the resolution.
I recently sent a second letter in May of this year as a follow-up to the original request. With just two letters over the course of one year, at least 367 counties from 38 states outside of Texas have joined our effort.
I have with me a list of the counties from across the country that have notified me that they have passed the resolution. It is my belief that there are numerous counties across the nation that have taken action on this resolution but have not forwarded a copy to me, and unfortunately, could not be listed.
Between the counties in Texas and the counties in the other 38 states, at least 534 counties across the country have joined our effort. This number represents one-sixth of all the counties in the nation.
Obviously, this resolution does not change any laws and certainly does not give counties the authority to reinstate prayer in the public school system. But it does demonstrate the overwhelming dissatisfaction among Americans with the 1963 Supreme Court ruling outlawing voluntary prayer in public schools.
You may be aware of action at the state level in many states across the country regarding this issue. In Texas this year, the 74th Legislature included as part of the Education Bill a provision allowing local school districts the authority to provide for a period of silence at the beginning of each school day. And several other state legislatures across the country have passed similar bills recently.
I think it is important to point out that, contrary to what a vocal minority would have you believe, this issue is not a partisan, political issue. In Texas, over 90 percent of the County Commissioners Courts that have passed our resolution are Democrat-majority Courts. Over 90 percent!
This is an issue of faith and morality. It is about preserving the foundations upon which this nation was built. And most importantly, this issue is about individual religious freedom.
I have made a commitment to continue in this grassroots movement in an effort to demonstrate to our federal representatives what the American people know is right regarding school prayer. I will continue rallying support from counties across the nation in hopes of convincing Congress the importance of this issue. And hopefully, one day soon we will see a reversal of our current policy.
I want to thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today. It has been a privilege to participate in these proceedings.