Mayor banishes Satan from Inglis
By ALEX LEARY
INGLIS -- The words just flowed from Carolyn Risher's pen as she sat at the kitchen table Halloween night. She wrote fast, ignoring commas and periods.
When the Inglis mayor finished, she put the fierce rhetoric down on official town stationery complete with gold seal.
She made five copies. One was kept for her office wall, which is covered with pictures of Elvis, framed letters of thanks and a painting of the Last Supper.
The rest were rolled and stuffed into hollowed-out fence posts placed at the four entrances to the town. The posts, painted with the words Repent, Request and Resist, were sealed and capped.
"You're either with God or against him," Risher, 61, and a lifelong resident, said from her office on Wednesday. "I'm with him."
So are a lot of other people in the town of 1,400, most of whom Risher describes as good Christians. "I have a lot of respect for her because she did that," said Martha Eiland, who was shopping for sea shells at a gift shop on U.S. 19.
But the mayor's public act of faith has drawn criticism from some who say it oversteps the line between church and state.
"It reminds me of the Taliban. If you're not Muslim, you're worthless," said Bob Farnan, the owner of Port Inglis Restaurant. "She just reversed the situation."
A waitress at the restaurant, Polly Bowser, is organizing a petition to have Risher ousted. Risher's letter, which makes several references to Jesus Christ, could be offensive to people with other faiths, Bowser said.
"I am not knocking any one faith," Risher said in the interview. "I am praying for the whole community."
"One person's beliefs are fine, but not on town letterhead," said Steve Young, who was sipping a beer at the Mouse Trap. "It doesn't seem appropriate."
Mayor Risher, whose affable demeanor and solid roots in the community have kept her in office for the past decade, is unapologetic.
"If I had thought I was doing something wrong, I would have not done it," she said. "It just felt like it was something I could do for the community, mostly for our young people."
Risher said she got the idea after Pastor Richard Moore of Yankeetown Church of God announced plans to place the fence posts. Moore asked his congregation to skip one meal a day for a 40-day period that ends in mid December.
"As the elected leader of this community, she was stepping out as a Christian and trying to do something positive," Moore said.
"We've gone so far in the separation of church and state it's almost like Christians don't have rights anymore."
The proclamation is not a reference to a single event, Risher explained, but an overall sense of concern. She speaks of drunken drivers, fathers who molest their daughters and people who steal from their neighbors.
Town Clerk Sally McCranie, who signed the proclamation, offered another observation: Kids in town, she said, have taken to dressing in all black and painting their faces white, a style known as Goth.
"We are taking everything back that the devil ever stole from us," Risher wrote. "We will never again be deceived by satanic and demonic forces."
Despite being the talk of town, Risher said she has received only one complaint about the proclamation. A business owner called her to warn against possible legal action.
That prospect does not seem to worry her. Town Attorney Norm Fugate declined to comment, saying questions must be asked at Town Commission meetings, so everyone can hear his response.
As for being impeached, Risher said that's unlikely. It would require a super-majority vote of the commission, and she is confident she has the backing of most of the officials.
"I'm biased," said commission member Sherry Ely, who owns Golden Nugget Pawn and Gun and attends the same church as Risher. "She was just trying to take a stand. We have to believe in things and fight for them."
|A copy of the official proclamation.|