The mayor of a Texas city has sparked a debate about prayer, gender and the relation of church and state after requesting that only men pray at city council meetings.
Wylie, Texas, Mayor Eric Hogue, who also serves as pastor of Cottonwood Church of Christ in the same city, made the comments in an email to a city council member who suggested local students from Youth With a Mission pray at a future council meeting, WFAA-TV in Dallas reported.
“All I ask is that those leading the public prayer be young men,” Hogue wrote on May 17 while citing two verses from the New Testament. “As a preacher for the Cottonwood Church of Christ, we take the two verses below literally.”
Hogue confirmed the validity of the email in an interview with WFAA.
In the email he cited 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and posted the text: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
He also quoted 1 Timothy 2:11-12: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
Hogue told WFAA: “I believe a lady can be president of the United States. I believe a lady can be CEO of a company, the superintendent of a school district. But I believe, and this is me, when it comes to [picking] somebody to lead the invocation at a city council meeting, because of those two sets of verses, I’m going to choose a male.”
City councilman Jeff Forrester told WFAA he was the council member who made the request to Hogue. The email became public, he said, through an open records request.
“I certainly don’t share those beliefs,” Forrester said. “I think we’re all created equally in the eyes of God and in the eyes of our government.”
Forrester added, “I’ve never observed Mayor Hogue ever speak ill of women.”
Women Organizing Women Democrats is organizing a protest against Hogue.
“This is about valuing all voices in a public forum. This chamber is not Hogue’s church, and he needs to remember that, or he needs to go,” said Debbie O’Reilly, president of the organization.
Said Hogue, “If I am asked my opinion, I’m going to state my opinion and that is what I did in that email.”
Wylie is located northeast of Dallas and has a population of 51,000.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Freedom007
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.