Last Tuesday, the Doña Ana County Commission voted 4-1 to ban the National Day of Prayer from being held at the County Government Building. Commissioner Christopher Schaljo-Hernandez brought the motion forward.
After the move by the Commission, Pastor Gene Pettit filed a request for an injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Las Cruces against asserting that the Doña Ana County Commission had violated the Constitution of the United States by denying “the right of the people to peaceably assemble” and by restricting the free exercise of religion on public property.
It also claims the Doña Ana County Commission has violated the 11th Amendment by infringing on the people’s “sovereign immunity.”
According to the group, “The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance designated by the United States Congress. Since 1952, the President of the United States has been required by law to sign a yearly proclamation encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. The National Day of Prayer has been held at the Doña Ana County Government Building every year since 2015 (with the exception of 2 years during COVID).”
Pettit wrote regarding the injunction, “The County Commission is infringing on the rights of the people of Doña Ana County to peaceably assemble and to practice their religion. We have a right to assemble on taxpayer-funded County property for this observance. I filed this Injunction to assert the rights of the people of Doña Ana County. Our National Day of Prayer event will still happen just as it has for many years prior. As written in Hosea 4:6 – ‘My people perish for lack of knowledge.’”
The National Day of Prayer event is scheduled to proceed on May 4, 2023, from 10:00 am to noon at the Doña Ana County Government Building located at 845 N. Motel Blvd., Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Contact information for the commissioners who voted to disallow the event is as follows:
Christopher Schaljo-Hernandez – email@example.com – (575) 525-5808 (This is the Commissioner who made the motion to amend the Proclamation to disallow this event on County property. He also is the ONLY one who voted against the National Day of Prayer Proclamation even once it was amended.)
Chair Susana Chaparro was the one commissioner to oppose Schaljo-Hernandez’s motion.