Tebow is a Heisman trophy winner and former quarterback who played for the Denver Broncos in the National Football League. He is also a devout Christian, who is vocal about his evangelical faith and often gives talks to churches and student groups across the country.
The event, hosted on behalf of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), is open to the public and Tebow’s speaking engagement will cost the county $60,000. Tebow often speaks at FCA events.
Funding for his talk was recommended by the Legacy Fund Committee and approved by the Andrews County Commissioners Court.
The Community Legacy Fund comprises the money paid out to the county by Waste Control Specialists (WCS), whose facilities in Andrews County manage low-level nuclear waste.
Low-level nuclear waste includes items that may have been contaminated during the process of nuclear fission such as gloves or clothing.
WCS pays the county around $1,000,000 per year to operate, and as of 2020 has given over $13.4 million to the county over a period of 10 years.
The Legacy Committee uses the money to fund projects for the “public good,” per the WCS website. Recently, the committee has approved projects to build a new city park and a “Life Center” that “supports mothers and fathers experiencing pregnancy.”
The event is named FCA’s Field of Faith, and according to its FCA Permian Basin webpage, its goal is to “spark a spiritual movement for God.”
The page reads, “Christianity needs a change in momentum — students who will stand together against the pressures and temptations in our world and be a generation that is committed to reading the Bible and applying it to their lives.”
The landmark Supreme Court case Lemon V. Kurtzman established that public funding cannot be used to sponsor inherently religious events, but that was effectively overturned by the court in Kennedy v. Bremerton in June.
The vast majority of payments from the nuclear waste facility go to “projects related to the public good.”
Though the WCS facility only holds low-level nuclear waste, Andrews County state Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) authored and passed House Bill (HB) 7 last year which prevents high-level nuclear waste from being deposited in the West Texas site.
High-level nuclear waste is the actual spent nuclear fuel cells created as a byproduct of nuclear fission and is highly radioactive.
Landgraf’s bill came on the heels of an effort by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to grant an interim storage license to build a high-level waste facility near the existing WCS facility.
The facility would be owned jointly by WCS and Interim Storage Partners (ISP).
He announced his bill last year, saying, “My constituents are on board with low-level storage, as used rubber gloves and hospital gowns provide little reason for concern. But high-level radioactive waste, like spent nuclear fuel, is a horse of an entirely different color.”
It seems that some county residents, though agreeable to holding low-level waste, believe that this waste should be the limit of their county’s involvement with WCS.
Andrews County resident Julie Stevenson told the commissioners court, “High-level, you will die within three days. I don’t want to take that risk for my children. I’m sure you have a lot of geologists speaking with you … but they’re looking at charts, graphs, they’re not looking at my 7-year-old son and my 87-year-old grandfather.”
“We’re not scared of the safety measures that are here, that they have put in place,” Stevenson said. “We’re scared of what they have not done. They have never transported high levels of waste into this area.”
The Texan reached out to Andrews County Judge Charlie Falcon for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
Editor’s note: The article has been updated with respect to the purpose of the funding provided to the county by the nuclear waste facility.
Update: This article was changed to reflect the fact that Lemon v. Kurtzman was overturned by Kennedy v. Bremerton.
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Hudson Callender is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of San Antonio, Texas. Hudson recently graduated cum laude from Trinity University with majors in Economics and Political Science, and loves to study ancient history. Hudson is also an avid mountaineer, backpacker, and paddler, often leading trips to remote wilderness areas. Outside of his love for nature, history, and Lone Star beer, Hudson spends his weekends arguing with his friends about football, and will always stick up for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and San Antonio Spurs.