Opinion

Commentary: For God, tea party and a spot on Fox News

A brand-new Tea Party Republican elected official had gone six months without getting any attention on Fox News.

So Natalie Nichols took care of that.

Now, commissioners in Bowie County are pitted against their new county clerk in a Texas courthouse skirmish gone national.

Of all the news stories in America, Fox & Friends is taking sides in a flap over official meeting minutes.

Nichols, 33, a Sarah Palin activist and Texarkana Tea Party leader, tangled with commissioners last month over whether their weekly prayer and Pledge of Allegiance would be listed in records.

County Judge Sterling Lacy, an evangelical pastor, asked at first to delete the solemnizations, saying they were personal free speech and not government speech.

With Nichols away, commissioners voted June 13 to strike the items from minutes. She argued, and they reversed the vote.

Yet Nichols still complained.

On July 5, she said in an online commentary: "We shouldn't be fighting to hide our allegiance to the flag. We should be fighting to proclaim it."

The debate came to a head at a July 11 meeting when Nichols interrupted Lacy to say, "You're lying!"

In response, commissioners asked deputies to investigate the disruption. Nichols filed a countercomplaint against Lacy.

Bloggers warned of a "holy war on God" in Bowie County.

Fox & Friends headlined:

"PUNISHED FOR PATRIOTISM

"Clerk Faces Prison For Defending the Pledge."

Nichols, whose campaign website mentions that she was listed among a magazine's "20 Most Beautiful Women in the Ark-La-Tex," is getting more attention than she has since she was on a 2008 NBC reality show, The Baby Borrowers.

Another county clerk said Nichols may have been working outside the margins of a clerk's role.

"I don't make note of anything before the actual meeting, and when that starts is up to the commissioners," Shelby County Clerk Allison Harbison, a regional director of the County and District Clerks Association of Texas, said by phone from Center.

With criminal investigations ongoing, commissioners this week hired an Austin law firm.

Nichols went on Fox.

"If I need to go to jail for standing up for the country and for God, I will," she said.

"I'm willing to risk a little jail time."

It means more TV time.

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