Eric Hogue, the mayor of Wylie, a small city just north of Dallas, Texas, is now under fire for telling a member of the city council that women should not be allowed to pray at public meetings because the Bible forbids it.
Hogue, who was elected mayor of Wylie on May 10, 2008, and is serving his fourth and final term, is also pastor of the Cottonwood Church of Christ in Wylie.
A WFAA report cites a May 17 email in which the Wylie mayor responds to a request from Jeff Forrester, mayor pro-tem and member of the Wylie City Council, to have some “young men” from an organization called Youth With A Mission pray at the council’s May 26 meeting. Youth With A Mission is a global volunteer movement of Christians from many backgrounds, cultures, age groups, and Christian traditions, dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world.
Members of the group, said Forrester, had been walking through the city and praying for the citizens which he saw as a great testament to the youth and their devotion to God.
Hogue who verified with WFAA that the email was authentic, approved Forrester’s request with the caveat barring females from praying at council meetings.
“All I ask is that those leading the public prayer be young men,” Hogue wrote. “As a preacher for the Cottonwood Church of Christ, we take the two verses below literally.”
In his email, the mayor pointed to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 which says: “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 cited 1 Timothy 2:11-12 noting: “Let the women 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 defended his position in an interview with WFAA Wednesday, noting that: “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.”
He also noted that his church practices those biblical positions which should not be interpreted as anti-woman.
“If you attend Church of Christ, there will not be a female preacher. There will not be a female song leader. There will not be a female that leads the prayer," he told WFAA. "Now, there will be ladies that teach other ladies. There will be ladies that teach the children’s classes. But when we’re in a worship service, we’re in a religious service, based on what the scriptures teach, the guys do that.”
Forrester told the network that he was “shocked” by the mayor’s response to his request.
“I certainly don’t share those beliefs. I think we’re all created equally in the eyes of God and in the eyes of our government," he said.
He noted, however, that in nearly five years of serving on the Wylie City Council, “I’ve never observed Mayor Hogue ever speak ill of women."
Wylie resident Mary Shaddox argued that while Hogue is entitled to his beliefs, it should not be allowed to influence his government.
“That's his right in his church and his home but he cannot bring it into a government office,” Shaddox said.
Fort Worth resident Lisa Eller Jobe is among the few who decided to voice their disagreement with the mayor by posting a message on his church's Facebook page.
“This letter is disgusting. Keep your religious views of women at church and don’t bring that trash to city council meetings. Your boy is going to get hit up with a lawsuit from the FFRF. Good luck with that,” she wrote along with a copy of the email online. The Freedom From Religion Foundation that Jobe mentioned frequently threatens to file lawsuits against cities and school districts that hold prayer before meetings or athletic events.
While some commenters argued that the mayor is wrong and that women are allowed to lead prayer during church services, Christian denominations remain divided on this topic and many churches do not allow women to lead communal prayer outside of a Bible study or Sunday school class for women, youth or children.