Joanna DeFoe, a justice of the peace for the Fulton County Quorum Court in Arkansas, has been breaking the law by injecting Christian prayers at their meetings.
I know this because she openly bragged about it online.
DeFoe was first elected in 2020, and when she announced her candidacy, she made her goals clear. They were straightforward and secular: “I believe changes need to take place in our quorum court that will keep our local citizens better informed about the items on the agenda, the budget process, the road conditions and the general state of the county.” Harmless enough, right?
While she said she felt called by God to run for office—which is disturbing but hardly illegal or unusual—she also spread the lie that “the Democrat party [has] completely eliminated the word ‘God’ from their platform.” (You can read the platform here. It has the word “God.”)
That was an omen.
DeFoe won her race 329 – 268 over her opponent and took office as a justice of the Peace. It’s a position that has relatively mundane responsibilities, like dealing with taxes and appropriating local spending. Those are undoubtedly important, but it’s not like they involve culture war issues.
And yet if you watch clips of their meetings, it’s clear DeFoe has injected religion into them. She routinely reads Bible verses directly after the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. At the most recent meeting, for example, she started her sermon about 15 seconds into the video:
It’s not that the Bible verses themselves are problematic. It’s that DeFoe thinks Christianity needs to be infused with the work of the local government. It’s Christian nationalism at work.
I probably wouldn’t have noticed any of this. It’s not like I pay close attention to local government meetings, much less ones that occur in other states, but I was tipped off to a comment she made on Thursday underneath a local news channel’s Facebook post asking people what they thought about prayers at school athletic events. (That’s a horrible question, by the way, but let’s set that aside for now.)
Buried in that lengthy comment thread is this exchange between DeFoe and someone who recognized the problem with her admission.
… I now brought prayer back into our Quorum Court this past year, course I have to say the prayer, but guess the Lord wanted me to do so!… I personally not doing anything wrong, if one does not believe in our Lord, then that person or persons can step out side while prayer is spoken!
So… she admits to shoving religion into the Quorum Court (on God’s suggestion, no less), claims there’s nothing wrong with it, and says anyone who disagrees can just step outside the room during the prayers.
Permitting people to leave the room during some unofficial Christian Portion of a taxpayer-funded meeting is not a thing. In no situation would DeFoe ever just step out quietly if a group of elected Muslims or atheists or Satanists wanted to do what she’s doing right now. At best, the Quorum Court might be allowed to have an open forum for people to deliver an invocation, but even that would have to be open to non-Christians.
For someone who brags about having “integrity,” it’s the height of hubris for an elected official to send the message that non-Christians are unwelcome at government meetings. These meetings must be open and welcoming to people of all faiths and no faith, not branded a Christian-only club by someone who cares more about pushing God on people than actually doing the job she was elected to do.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been notified about this. If and when this illegal practice ends, it’ll be because DeFoe was so comfortable breaking the law, she began openly bragging about her crimes.