HARLEM, Ga. — A police chief in Georgia has discontinued writing about Christianity on the department’s Facebook page following pressure from atheists.
Chief Gary Jones with the Harlem Public Safety Department had been posting alerts and encouragement on the department’s page, from updates about criminal matters to admonishments about parenting. However, when the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) found out that Jones had been writing about Christianity on the page, they sent a letter to the department, demanding that he cease and desist.
“There are many kids that have been raised in Godly homes that have went astray at no fault of the parent(s); however, too many have went astray due to parents failing to discipline and get involved in their children’s lives,” one of his posts stated. “The police cannot raise your kids. Parents must become the disciplinarian and impose and enforce rules. The law does not prohibit a parent or guardian from spanking their children.”
“The law says that parents may administer reasonable corporal punishment. No, it is not reasonable to strike a child with a bat or other object, but you can use a belt and strike their rear-ends,” Jones continued. “Fathers, you are the head of the home and God will hold you accountable. Get your children in church and teach them about the one and only true Savior…Jesus Christ.”
In another status, he announced that his daughter wanted to become a Christian.
“I am certainly not trying to turn this into a so-called religious site. However, since my last posting about 30 minutes ago, my wife called and said our 5-year-old daughter was eating breakfast this morning and plainly told her mother that she wanted to accept Jesus as her Savior and ask him into her heart,” Jones wrote. “Her mother prayed with her and afterwards she said this means I am going to heaven now.”
In writing a letter to the department about the posts, FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel asserted that Jones was violating the Constitution by insinuating an government endorsement of religion.
“The police chief’s overt promotion of religion using the Harlem Police Chief’s office, title and Facebook page gives the unfortunate impression that the Harlem government supports and endorses particular religious rituals,” Seidel asserted. “If Mr. Jones wishes to disseminate these messages, he must do so on his own personal Facebook page. He cannot use the machinery of the government, or even his own title, to push people to live in accordance with his religion or go to church.”
At first, Jones stood his ground and said that he would continue posting as he had more supporters than opponents.
“I’m not ashamed of putting God into anything, and that’s just my opinion that that’s what’s wrong with this country today,” he told local television station WRDW. “I will continue to post and most of the people in Harlem are of Christian belief…”
But a number of atheists nationwide soon pounced on the small Bible Belt town’s page to condemn Jones’ writings and engage in argument over religious matters. Some posted pictures and comments that mocked and belittled Christianity.
On Sunday, Jones posted a message that he would move his statuses to a personal page.
“I have committed to stop posting any verbiage that relates to religion,” he wrote. “I do ask that all of the arguing, degrading, profanity, etc. stop. … I will have a personal page up and running next week without fail. Now if this does not satisfy you and you still feel compelled to create disharmony, then so be it, but I will not be bullied or continually threatened.”
Prior to moving to a personal page, a number of area residents said that they had enjoyed Jones’ admonishments.
“I just love that he’s doing this,” Harlem resident Linda Caldwell told reporters. “I think basically everyone around this area does too.”