JONESBORO, Ark. — Officials with a city in Arkansas have deleted several Facebook posts that include quotes from the Bible or other Christian sayings following a complaint from a prominent atheist activist organization.
According to reports, the Jonesboro 911 dispatch page had featured a number of Christian-related posts, such as “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Have a great day!” and “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.”
In response to an anonymous complaint, the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Mayor Harrold Perrin, declaring that whoever is posting the religious references on Facebook must cease.
“It is inappropriate for Dispatch Jonesboro to indicate a preference for Christianity and religion by quoting the Christian Bible, posting prayers, and sharing postings asking people to pray on the official dispatcher Facebook page,” the correspondence read. “This proselytizing message gives the appearance of government endorsement of Christianity. It also conflicts with personal religious and nonreligious views of many city residents and employees.”
The letter further asserted that posting the Scriptures and other saying alienated residents of other religions and sends the message that non-Christians are “outsiders.”
“To avoid further Establishment Clause concerns, the administrator of the Dispatch Jonesboro Facebook page must refrain from posting religious materials,” it contended.
In response to the correspondence, Mayor Perrin consulted with the city attorney, who advised that the posts should come down. Perrin then directed the dispatch department to delete the Facebook statuses at issue. The city is now also working on creating guidelines as to the content of city-based social media posts.
“At the time, I decided it was better to be cautious and remove the posts until we could look into this issue further,” Perrin said in a statement.
However, the mayor is now seeking advisement from Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and says that the city will continue to share “inspirational” posts with residents.
“After further review, I have decided to request a legal opinion from the Arkansas Attorney General as to the legality of putting posts that may contain religious content on city-run Facebook pages. When I took office I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land. I am committed to ensuring that the City of Jonesboro in all its operations obeys the law,” Perrin said.
Some now state that the city should not have deleted the posts and should not heed outside groups like FFRF.
“The Bible is an all-time best seller whose wisdom and principles are at the very root of American life. In no way should quotes from the Bible be outlawed!” wrote one commenter. “Jonesboro, why have you allowed yourselves to be bullied?”