Job Interview Questions About Gay Marriage, Abortion, and Religion Lead to Lawsuit

Back in March, Constable Bobby Gutierrez (sort of like a sheriff) retired, so the commissioners in Williamson County, Texas had to replace him.

They interviewed five candidates and asked them each a series of important, relevant questions:

Are you for or against gay marriage?

Are you pro-life or pro-choice?

Who did you vote for in the last election?

What are your religious beliefs?

Because you have to be a good conservative Christian to be a cop.

What’s even more amazing is that the commissioners saw nothing wrong with that:

When asked about the interview questions in May, Williamson County Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey said those rules don’t apply in this situation.

“In general, this is a process that is different than a normal employment interview because it is an elected position,” Covey said.

“We wanted to make sure the candidate could not only do the job as constable, but also handle the rigor of political life,” Covey said.

The “rigor of political life” must include nepotism since the position ended up going to Kevin Stofle, who had experience as a police officer but who also happened to be the brother-in-law of the commissioners’ attorney. (Coincidence, I’m sure.)

Robert Lloyd, who was interviewed for the position but didn’t get it, is now suing the commissioners (along with Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis, who was also involved in the hiring process) over the illegal line of questioning:

Robert Lloyd

… In a lawsuit filed Monday, Lloyd recounts his answer when he was asked that question about his position on gay marriage.

“I gave the best answer that I felt that I could with the knowledge that the world is changing, people are changing, the US supreme court looks at these cases every day,” Lloyd said.

According to Lloyd, and the lawsuit, one commissioner responded by saying, “If you are appointed as constable, you better come up with a better answer than that.”

“This is so clearly a violation of both federal and state law,” said Jim Harrington with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

It’s worth noting that Lloyd isn’t trying to get any money in this lawsuit; he just wants to make sure the religious-based madness stops.

“My only drive in this is that I want it to be made public, and I want it to be corrected,” he said.

The full lawsuit can be read here (PDF). (Ironically, the lawsuit includes a “Prayer for Relief.”)

This should be an easy case to decide… but it’s Texas, so you never know. Either way, these elected commissioners are about to throw away taxpayer money so that they can hire only “good Christians.” If I lived in Williamson County, I’d be furious.

(Thanks to Lori for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • LesterBallard

    Don’t see him winning state courts, so I hope it goes to the Supreme Court if necessary. And perhaps by then Scalia will have retired.

  • The Other Weirdo

    He’s trying to be the good guy, not asking for money. It’s the principle of the thing. I get it. Unfortunately, without money, even if he wins, there is no incentive for those people to change. It’s just something that can be shrugged off.

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      There’s always money involved, even if he isn’t asking for any. The County will have legal costs, and if Lloyd wins the County will probably also have to pay his legal fees as well. The money incentive is there. Remember that Cranston had to pay Jessica Alquist’s lawyers.

      • The Other Weirdo

        That’s not money, that’s a pittance. You can write that off, you can get some rich Christian to subsidize because it’s for the good of the cause, you can do a church fundraiser. I am talking real money, in the millions of dollars in punitive damages(or other such lawyerspeak), money that you can’t just ignore or sweep under the rug.

    • Kevin Sagui

      If you don’t want to profit off the lawsuit, have the punitive damages go to a charity. ALWAYS seek damages, though.

  • Jay

    *sigh* I’m technically a resident of Williamson. I’m always relieved when I cross the line into Travis County.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Well yeah! That’s where Austin is. Who wouldn’t be glad to be going to Austin?

  • benanov

    “Prayer for relief” isn’t a religious reference, it’s a legal term. But hey, we all do these sorts of hilarious erroneous nitpicks.

    • Carmelita Spats

      Yeah, kinda like when my Christian neighbor observed that I’m secretly a “believer” because I say “goddamn” and “holy shit”…He also noted that if my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle. We all do these sorts of hilarious erroneous nitpicks.

      • Michael W Busch

        Context: “prayer for relief” is a legal term – it’s the part of a complaint where the plaintiff describes the remedies that they seek from the court. e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_for_relief . It is perhaps unfortunately named.

  • A3Kr0n

    I’d go for maximum dollars. If it doesn’t hurt, they’ll do it again.

  • newavocation

    Isn’t this more like a civil rights issue? Lloyd’s rights to a fair interview process were trampled. The commissioners knew they were violating his rights and should be removed from office and held personally liable.

  • C Peterson

    He should be going for money. Serious money. Millions. Enough money that this county can’t pave its roads for a year, or has to close a library or two. It has to hurt. Until these kinds of incidents start causing real pain to the residents of the localities involved, they aren’t going to stop.

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      I agree that there’s gotta be more done to deter this, but causing pain to the citizens for the actions of the leaders is supremely unjust.
      Kinda reminds me of 2 Sam 24 when god punishes the people for David’s mistakes. Or the plagues of Egypt, when God punishes the people for pharaoh’s actions

      • C Peterson

        No, causing pain to the local citizens isn’t unjust. Not in the least. The people making these terrible choices are the elected representatives of those citizens. They were picked by those citizens. They are acting on behalf of those citizens. They are not “leaders”. They are, in effect, the citizens themselves.

        Until electors feel the pain of making bad choices, nothing is going to get better.

        • David Theiler

          I happen to live in Williamson county and did not vote for any of those fools. Should I be punished? You do see how your logic is flawed, right?

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            It’s the logic we use for international sanctions. The people of Iran aren’t thrilled with the ayatollahs for a lot of reasons, but it is the common people who suffer under the sanctions. The idea is to hurt the economy enough to actually get up the chain to the upper classes and constantly tell Iranians that it’s because their of their leaders’ stance on nuclear enrichment, so they blame the leaders and not us for the economic hardships.

            If we can do it to Iranians, why shouldn’t we do it to Americans? We have far more open elections than Iran does.

            • David Theiler

              Sanctions against a foreign nation and those against a county in Texas would be wildly different.

              First off, our country holds no sway over a sovereign nation, and the only way to pressure them into discontinuing their ascent towards being a nuclear power is either by military force or economically. When you are able to express your sovereign powers on your own soil, the way to do it is through the legal system. That is what it is set up for. Alternately, you could educate the population on what is going on so that they can vote out those officials.

              Secondly, I would hope that you wouldn’t be so arrogant as to compare nuclear arms to religious bigotry. Granted bigotry can lead to horrible actions, but we are not even close to that. However wrong the actions of those elected officials were, they pale in comparison to a despotic ayatollah attempting to gain the world’s most powerful weapon.

              Finally, I don’t believe the go to answer for anything should be economic oppression. Even before sanctions are implemented the two governments attempt negotiations. Hopefully these officials can be shown the error of their ways, and if not they should be voted out of office. No one should, by any means, cause pain to the citizens of this place.

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                Negotiation has been attempted. It often fails. When that happens, lawsuits happen, but the penalties are slim and fall solely on the taxpayers and voters, not the council members who voted the bad policy in place and refused to remove it, often at the instigation of the voters; one might call these ineffective sanctions. Effective sanctions could include higher rewards, which hurt the taxpayers and voters more, so they can see the error of their ways in voting for those who make unconstitutional policies.

                I am not advocating the exact same outcome or interactions with domestic citizens as when we do foreign sanctions. The logic (punish the many to make them realize their leaders are doing Bad Things(tm) so they change their leaders) is the same, though.

          • C Peterson

            I see no flaw at all. Yes, you should be “punished”. They are your representatives. We suffer collectively for our collective decisions.

            • David Theiler

              Then you are no better than those representatives. In fact, you are something quite worse.

      • The Other Weirdo

        They don’t have to elect those leaders. Maybe enough of these will cause them to elect leaders who won’t rush headlong into illegal activity.

    • Rain

      He is asking for attorney’s fees and all related costs. That should be enough for all of Texas to not pave their roads if that makes you happy I guess.

    • Tom

      Closing libraries doesn’t hurt fundies.

      • closetatheist

        *chortle*

  • Rain

    “In general, this is a process that is different than a normal employment interview because it is an elected position,” Covey said.

    Today must be “opposite day” because that is, like, opposite or something. And then it’s supposed to be a convincing argument. It’s gotta be “opposite day”.

  • ORAXX

    That asking questions like this is illegal, is something these people should have learned in grammar school.

  • JWH

    I can’t speak to the gay marriage, abortion, or political questions in this case, as I don’t know what special rules might apply to the office of constable. However, this question strikes me as blatantly illegal:

    What are your religious beliefs?

    Presumably, the office of constable is an office of public trust in the state of Texas … and asking him about his religion runs afoul of the Texas constitution, Article I, Sec. 4:

    Sec. 4. RELIGIOUS TESTS. No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.

    (Incidentally, the phrase “provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being” would be unenforceable under Torcaso v. Watkins).

  • JA

    Only in Texas…

    • Michael W Busch

      Unfortunately, not only in Texas. (e.g. consider how few non-religious US politicians there are – and how often candidates for office are asked about their religious beliefs.)

  • Yoav

    According to Lloyd, and the lawsuit, one commissioner responded
    by saying, “If you are appointed as constable, you better come up with a
    better answer than that.”

    The commissioner had a sort of a point, although not in the way I think he meant the comment, in the context of a job interview ‘it’s none of your fucking business’ would have been the appropriate answer to every single one of these questions.

  • IslandTyger

    The prayer for relief is not ironic. It is the style of pleading in Texas. However, this is Williamson County, so I am not surprised. Judge Ken Anderson is on trial for prosecutorial misconduct.

  • David Mock

    Don’t worry guys, this is a good thing. The more the Christians become defensive and intolerant, it means the less they have a stranglehold over the American public. They’re just being extremely defensive because their side is losing the battle. In 10 to 15 years there will be so few of them left that they will have an insignificant amount of influence.

  • SirReal

    So did he actively complain about it before he didn’t get the job? Would he have complained about it HAD he gotten the job? To me, his motivation for the lawsuit is just as important as the lawsuit itself. And yes, without money, it’s a slap on the wrist for these people.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    My parents live in Williamson County :( I grew up there.

    I wish I could say I’m surprised the county showed up here, but I’m really, really not.

  • Stev84

    It makes no sense to elect such low level flunkies. That just gives people in marginal positions an inflated sense of their own importance.

  • Jennifer

    Oh hell, I live in Williamson county. I saw signs for Bobby Gutierrez during the last election. I am so, so ashamed of this area right now.

  • stop2wonder

    This is a slam dunk for the Lloyd. This clearly violates the US Constitution’s religious test clause…

    Article 6, paragraph 3

    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of
    the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers,
    both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by
    Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

  • Guest

    Duh, it’s Texas! That 3rd world theocracy that keeps threatening to secede from the Union but never follows through on those threats. This isn’t news, it’s just Texas. YeeeeeHaw!


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