Atheist Group Takes Issue With Texas Sheriff’s Quotation of Romans 13:4 in Memo

DENTON, Texas — One of the nation’s most conspicuous atheist activist groups has submitted a letter of complaint to a sheriff’s office in Texas to assert that the sheriff’s quotation of Romans 13:4 in a memo to officers violates the U.S. Constitution.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) says that a local resident alerted the organization to Sheriff Tracy Murphree’s use of the verse on a departmental memo, which was also posted to social media.

The memo advised officers that in light of the Parkland, Florida shooting, officers are expected to take immediate action in the event of an active shooter situation. It then concluded with Romans 13:4, “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

Read Sheriff Murphree’s memo here.

However, FFRF asserts that Murphree is not permitted under the Constitution to cite Scripture in his official correspondence.

“It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for any representative of the Denton County Sheriff’s Department, let alone the sheriff himself, to promote the Bible in official communications because doing so conveys government preference for religion over non-religion,” wrote Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel.

FFRF also argued that the Scripture contradicts the Constitution, as it claimed that men ordained the government and not God.

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“The Constitution declares that governments are instituted by the people, not a god: ‘We the People of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’ Romans 13:1 says precisely the opposite, ‘the powers that be are ordained of God.’ The two documents are opposed. You may have taken your oath on the Bible, but that oath was a promise to uphold the Constitution,” Seidel stated.

The Church-State separation group further asserted that using the quote in the memo “distorts the role of law enforcement.”

“Sheriffs are not avengers. They are not meant to punish the guilty. Sheriffs are not even tasked with determining guilt or innocence; that is for our courts. They are certainly not meant to punish anyone in a god’s name or carry out ‘God’s wrath,’ Seidel wrote.

“You do not bear a ‘sword’ to avenge or destroy, but to protect. Romans 13:4 is diametrically opposed to this fact and is a poor representation of the solemn duty you and your deputies are tasked with carrying out,” he contended.

FFRF wants the Scripture removed from the memo, and is asking that Murphree’s social media post be removed and reposted without the quotation.

Read FFRF’s letter here.

It is not known whether Murphree plans to respond.

Historic American statesman Daniel Webster, who held office both in the House and Senate, once said, “If the power of the gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign without mitigation or end.”

Noah Webster, known as the father of American education, also said, “All the miseries and evils which men suffer from—vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war—proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”

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  • Amos Moses – He>i

    “The Constitution declares that governments are instituted by the people, not a god: ‘We the People of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’

    NOPE ….. mixing documents …. the DOI declares that governments are instituted who are ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR …… and that aint mommy and daddy ….. and THOSE RIGHTS are given BY GOD ….. as CREATOR …………

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men

    • Doug Indeap

      Yup, in the Constitution the founders (1) established a secular government on the power of “We the people,” not a deity, (2) said nothing to connect that government to god(s) or give it power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (3) indeed said nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except to preclude any religious test for public office. They latter buttressed this separation of government and religion with the additional constraints of the First Amendment.

      The Declaration of Independence is an entirely different matter. While some draw meaning from its variously phrased references to god(s) (which could mean any number of things, some beyond or different than the Christian idea of God) and try to connect that meaning to the Constitution, the effort is largely baseless. Important as the Declaration is in our history, it did not operate to bring about independence (that required winning a war), nor did it found a government, nor did it even create any law, and it certainly did not say or do anything that somehow dictated the meaning of a Constitution adopted twelve years later. The colonists issued the Declaration not to do any of that, but rather to politically explain and justify the move to independence that was already well underway. Nothing in the Constitution depends on anything said in the Declaration. Nor does anything said in the Declaration purport to limit or define the government later formed by the free people of the former colonies. Nor could it even if it purported to do so. Once independent, the people of the former colonies were free to choose whether to form a collective government at all and, if so, whatever form of government they deemed appropriate. They were not somehow limited by anything said in the Declaration. Sure, they could take its words as inspiration and guidance if, and to the extent, they chose–or they could not. They could have established any form of government with any sort of relationship to religion, indeed a theocracy if they wished–or, as they ultimately chose, a government founded on the power of the people (not a deity) and separated from religion.

      • Amos Moses – He>i

        EVERY state constitution recognizes God ……… ALL 50 …….. and those ARE the “We The People…..” ……… and NO it is not a secular government and it was NEVER intended to be ….. that is Post-Modern Claptrap …….

        Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
        ~John Adams

        • Doug Indeap

          By this oft-repeated quotation, Adams does not suggest that the Constitution somehow infuses religion into the government it established. He said nothing of the sort. Rather, mindful that the Constitution establishes a republican government founded on the power and will of the people, he observed that that government necessarily depends on the people’s continued ability and willingness to exercise some measure of good will and judgment and play by the rules laid down in the Constitution. As many in his day did, Adams associated morality and religion, and presumed that a moral and religious people would be able to exercise good will and judgment and play by the rules as needed for the government established by the Constitution to work.

          Adams and other founders plainly declared their intent to establish a secular government in the Treaty of Tripoli. Signed by President Adams with the unanimous consent of the Senate (comprised in large measure of founders), the Treaty declared in pertinent part: “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” No need to resort to reading tea leaves to understand that. This moreover is not an informal comment by an individual founder, but rather an official declaration of the most solemn sort by the United States government itself—when it was run by founders.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            “Adams does not suggest that the Constitution somehow infuses religion into the government it established. ”

            sure ….. it just REFUTES the claim that it is supposed to be a secular government ……. and it was NEVER intended …………..

          • Doug Indeap

            No. Reread what he says. He speaks of a religious and moral PEOPLE (being the sort who would play by the rules needed for a republican government to function), not a religious GOVERNMENT.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            if the people are “religious” and the government is the people ….. guess what ………

            FYI ……

            Justice David Josiah Brewer (143 U.S. 457-458, 465-471, 36 L ed 226): “This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation. The commission to Christopher Columbus … (recited) that ‘it is hoped that by God’s assistance some of the continents and islands in the ocean will be discovered’ …

            “The first colonial grant made to Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584 … and the grant authorizing him to enact statutes for the government of the proposed colony provided ‘that they be not against the true Christian faith’ … The first charter of Virginia, granted by King James I in 1606 … commenced the grant in these words: ‘… in propagating of Christian Religion to such People as yet live in Darkness …’ Language of similar import may be found in the subsequent charters of that colony … in 1609 and 1611; and the same is true of the various charters granted to the other colonies. In language more or less emphatic is the establishment of the Christian religion declared to be one of the purposes of the grant.

            “The celebrated compact made by the Pilgrims in the Mayflower, 1620, recites: ‘Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith … a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia’ … The fundamental orders of Connecticut, under which a provisional government was instituted in 1638-1639, commence with this declaration: ‘… And well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union … there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God … to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess … of the said gospel is now practiced amongst us.’

            “In the charter of privileges granted by William Penn to the province of Pennsylvania, in 1701, it is recited: ‘… no people can be truly happy, though under the greatest enjoyment of civil liberties, if abridged of … their religious profession and worship …’

            “Coming nearer to the present time, the Declaration of Independence recognizes the presence of the Divine in human affairs in these words: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. … appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions. … And for the support of this Declaration, with firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor’ … These declarations … reaffirm that this is a religious nation.”

          • Doug Indeap

            What are you talking about? The government is not the people. The people created the government in the Constitution. It is entirely possible for a religious people (particularly a religiously diverse people) to create a secular government and keep it separate from religion. That is just what the founders did.

            Note that the Constitution’s separation of church and state reflected, at the federal level, a “disestablishment” political movement then sweeping the country. That movement succeeded in disestablishing all state religions by 1833. The disestablishment movement was linked to another movement, the Great Awakening. The people of the time saw separation of church and state as a boon, not a burden, to religion, as recorded by a famous observer of the American experiment: “On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention. . . . I questioned the members of all the different sects. . . . I found that they differed upon matters of detail alone, and that they all attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country mainly to the separation of church and state. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America, I did not meet a single individual, of the clergy or the laity, who was not of the same opinion on this point.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835).

            I’m familiar with Justice Brewer’s statements in the Holy Trinity case. Why do you quote them in this context? If you reread them, you’ll see that he simply observed that the nation’s people are largely religious and not that the nation’s government or laws are somehow religious—much as I said in my earlier comment. Brewer later elaborated on this distinction, confirming that while the people are religious, the government is independent of all religions: “But in what sense can [the United States] be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or the people are compelled in any manner to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that ‘congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ Neither is it Christian in the sense that all its citizens are either in fact or in name Christians. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within its borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all. […] Nor is it Christian in the sense that a profession of Christianity is a condition of holding office or otherwise engaging in public service, or essential to recognition either politically or socially. In fact, the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions. Nevertheless, we constantly speak of this republic as a Christian nation – in fact, as the leading Christian nation of the world.” D. Brewer, The United States: A Christian Nation (1905) 12.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            but they did not create a “secular” government ……..

            It was to keep a sect of christianity from dominating others, not to make christianity equal to all others or none.

            The first amendment was written by James Madison and it was Madison who appointed Joseph Story to the SCOTUS. He served for nearly 34 years. He knew the authors and their intent.

            Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story –

            § 1871. The real object of the (1st) amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity (Atheism), by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government. It thus cut off the means of religious persecution, (the vice and pest of former ages,) and of the subversion of the rights of conscience in matters of religion, which had been trampled upon almost from the days of the Apostles to the present age. The history of the parent country had afforded the most solemn warnings and melancholy instructions on this head; and even New England, the land of the persecuted puritans, as well as other colonies, where the Church of England had maintained its superiority, would furnish out a chapter, as full of the darkest bigotry and intolerance, as any, which could be found to disgrace the pages of foreign annals. Apostacy, heresy, and nonconformity had been standard crimes for public appeals, to kindle the flames of persecution, and apologize for the most atrocious triumphs over innocence and virtue.

          • Doug Indeap

            First, Justice Story was not a founder, so whatever he might say about the founders’ intent has only as much weight as the evidence he provides, just like any other commentator.

            Second, reread Story’s words and you’ll see he does not say that the First Amendment was to keep a sect of Christianity from dominating others and not to make Christianity equal to all other religions or none. Rather, he merely noted that the object of the First Amendment was not to countenance or advance other religions by prostrating Christianity.

            Third, reliance on Story’s comments in his Commentaries (which I first encountered decades ago while in law school researching for an article) is problematic to say the least if for no other reason than that he offers seemingly conflicting ideas. In passages preceding those you quoted, he says this about the no-religious-test clause of the Constitution: “This clause is not introduced merely for the purpose of satisfying the scruples of many respectable persons, who feel an invincible repugnance to any religious test, or affirmation. It had a higher object; to cut off for ever every pretense of any alliance between church and state in the national government.” He goes on to explain the aim was to cut off any alliance between government and any religion, Christian or other: “The framers of the constitution were fully sensible of the dangers from this source, marked out in the history of other ages and countries; and not wholly unknown to our own. . . . The Catholic and the Protestant had alternately waged the most ferocious and unrelenting warfare on each other; and Protestantism itself, at the very moment, that it was proclaiming the right Of private judgment, prescribed boundaries to that right, beyond which if any one dared to pass, he must seal his rashness with the blood of martyrdom the history of the Parent country, too, could not fail to instruct them in the uses, and the abuses of religious tests. . . . With one quotation more from [Blackstone], exemplifying the nature and objects of the English test laws, this subject may be dismissed. ‘In order the better to secure the established church against perils from non-conformists of all denominations, infidels, Turks, Jews, heretics, papists, and sectaries, there are, however, two bulwarks erected, called the corporation and test-acts. . . .’ It is easy to foresee, that without some prohibition of religious tests, a successful sect, in our country, might, by once possessing power, pass test-laws, which would secure to themselves a monopoly of all the offices of trust and profit, under the national government.” Story then turned to the amendments and offered the views you quoted.

            Fourth, perhaps in all his comments but at least in those concerning the First Amendment, Story appears to express his personal views rather than some conclusion about the founders’ intent drawn from evidence. He offers no evidence of the framers’ intent in this regard (failing even to acknowledge that Madison had by then already vetoed two bills based on an understanding of the First Amendment contrary to Story’s), and instead resorts to his personal opinion: “The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion, the being, and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God; the responsibility to him for all our actions, founded upon moral freedom and accountability; a future state of; rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all, the personal, social, and benevolent virtues;– these never Can be a matter of indifference in any well ordered community it is, indeed difficult to conceive, how any civilized society can well exist without them. And at all events, it is impossible for; those, who believe in the truth of Christianity, as a divine revelation, to doubt, that it is the especial duty of government to foster, and encourage it among all the citizens and subjects.” (Moreover, that he was wrong in supposing this “impossible” is evidenced by the fact that hardly all devout founders shared this idea.)

            Finally, as should be especially appreciated by those modern day show-me-the-words-separation-of-church-and-state literalists, if Story is understood to say that the Constitution is intended merely to preclude rivalry among Christian sects, he entirely fails to explain how he reads the words “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” to mean only “to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects” and “Christianity ought to receive encouragements from the State.”

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            Story was a SCOTUS judge and an authority on the early constructionist thought and knew numerous persons who were there ………. do not like it …. tough ….. there is no evidence that the founders created a “secular” government ….. that is post-modern claptrap …….

          • Doug Indeap

            I discussed Story at length offering several points supported by explanation and evidence. When you “respond” with but a string of assertions, there isn’t much for me to discuss–except to point out that your assertions are unadorned by explanation or evidence.

            As for me being the determiner of truth or intent, certainly none of us determine it in the sense of making it so or establishing it by my our volition. Just as certainly though, I am indeed the determiner of what I accept as fact or not based on review and analysis of the evidence and arguments presented to me. Do not like it? Tough.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            your whole point of view is just post-modernism …… it lacks any fundamental thought as to what was originally done ….. it is just your own made-up ideas ….. what is there to debate ….. you just make things up to fit your own narrative ……… that others share them is irrelevant …..

          • Doug Indeap

            Just labeling my views, e.g., post-modernism or whatever, doesn’t cut it. As for lacking fundamental thought about what was originally done, I discussed (1) aspects of the Constitution revealing the secular nature of the government it established, (2) the Declaration of Independence, (3) the Treaty of Tripoli, and (4) Madison’s vetoes of bills because they contravened the First Amendment’s establishment clause–all of which are contemporary evidence of what “was originally done” as you put it. If you are up to actually discussing the nature of our government, you can start there.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            “(1) aspects of the Constitution revealing the secular nature of the government it established”

            post-modern interpretation and invalid ……

            “(2) the Declaration of Independence”

            acknowledges a Creator ….. and it is capitalized …… and that our RIGHTS flow from that Creator ……………….

            “(3) the Treaty of Tripoli”

            bogus cite …… has nothing to do with the formation of the government being “secular” …… and no one made any claim of a christian government …… and again ….. more postmodernism ……… it does not mean what you want it to mean …………

          • Doug Indeap

            You seem a devotee of the tis-tain’t school of argumentation. Just labeling my views post-modern and asserting they are wrong does not discuss or refute them, and affords little basis for further discussion. You’ve said nothing to actually engage the evidence and explanations I’ve offered you. Your persistence in diverting and ducking discussion brings whatever usefulness our conversation may have had to an end–of sorts anyway.

          • Doug Indeap

            You seem a devotee of the tis-tain’t school of argumentation. Just labeling my views post-modern and asserting they are made up does not discuss or refute them, and affords little basis for further discussion. You’ve said nothing to actually engage the evidence and explanations I’ve offered you. Your persistence in diverting and ducking discussion brings whatever usefulness our conversation may have had to an end–of sorts anyway.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            you gave four points ….. i have answered them with specificity …… i dont have to duck and divert pointless points of post-modernisitc self interpretation of history …………

            “It is anachronistic arrogance and chronological snobbery. Where we happen to think that we is the smartest generation to ever be since the foundation of the everything and there aint been nobody who has ever been smarter than us.” …. and that is all you have ………

          • namelessghost

            You are way out of your league. Can’t you tell?

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            sounds racist ……..

          • namelessghost

            Sorry about that, but I wasn’t referring to anything regarding race. My point is that you are out of your league when you try to argue points of law with a lawyer. That is all.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            i know lots of people with lots of letters behind their names ……. and many of them are as dumb as a bag of hammers and door knobs ……. does not make them right …. and it does not make them smart ……….

          • namelessghost

            That may be so… but a lawyer knows more about the law than someone who has not studied or practiced law, no matter what else they may or may not know.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            no he does not …… he has his own ideas about it ….. and book learning has little to do with it …… they will follow the intents of their heart ……. no matter how damnable it may be ………

          • namelessghost

            Now you’re just being silly. Of course a lawyer knows more about the law than someone who has never studied or practiced law. It’s just common sense.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            i have studied it ….. has nothing to do with it …. and the FACT is we are not talking about the “law” ….. we are talking about HISTORY …….

          • namelessghost

            I doubt that. Anyway, this is a legal issue… not a history issue.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            It is a history issue …… just not a post-modern idea of what the history is …. and that is all he has ….. post-modern claptrap …………

          • namelessghost

            No. It’s not a history issue. FFRF doesn’t get involved in history issues. It’s a legal issue.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            FYI … read the thread … YOU were DEFENDING some other dudes position …… and it IS a history issue ……

          • namelessghost

            Please pay attention. What I said was that you are way out of your league when you try to argue points of law with a lawyer.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            and again … it is about HISTORY …. and it false interpretation ……. and you fail to parse and are out of your “league” …..

          • namelessghost

            As I said before, you’re way out of your league. And now, you’re dismissed.

          • namelessghost

            As I said before, you’re way out of your league. And now, you’re dismissed.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ……………. boring ………….

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            “Second, reread Story’s words and you’ll see he does not say that the First Amendment was to keep a sect of Christianity from dominating others”

            SURE ……

            “but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment”

            you are making things up to fit your narrative ……….

          • Doug Indeap

            In repeating your words, I should have added a bit to clarify that he does not say that the First Amendment was “just” or “only” to keep a sect of Christianity from dominating others.

          • JCMeg56

            This was all in the historical context of Europe’s experience when Roman Catholicism fell to nationalized religions.
            Though no religion was ESTABLISHED, it was assumed in the spirit of the Great Awakening that America’s religious electorate would secure the blessings of [the Christian] God upon her future generations by electing good, moral men as her leaders: that Christianity was the superior belief system and would remain preeminent over any other.
            Slavery had been defeated in Europe (and would soon end in America) and the truth was marching on. Little did they realize that scientific materialism and secular humanism were also welling up. Nor did they foresee the consequential slaughter of millions under those belief systems, which have religious fervor without Christianity’s moral restraints. After two world wars, we ought to have learned our lesson, but we have not.
            we continue to allow these anti-Christian worldviews to be given equal consideration as our Christian roots and their natural law parameters are ripped up and tossed aside as though meritless.
            And we are expected to sit quietly on the sidelines watching — not opening our mouths to utter the wisdom of the ages because scripture offends the rabid secularist’s tender ears.
            Well, I’m offended by his offense. And we move from the sublime to the ridiculous.
            America has become a house divided against itself. Jesus is clear about what the outcome of that scenario is..

          • Doug Indeap

            What’s this hoo-ha about offense. Each of us is free to say what we will, and there is no right not to be offended.

          • JCMeg56

            A treaty is a political contract negotiated with a foreign power under the authority of the sitting executive office-holder. It is not a law promulgated by the legislative branch, elected to represent the people.
            Countless speeches and writings by the executive officeholders have been replete with scripture and could easily be cited by this county sheriff as precedent. A memo by a county sheriff is certainly of infinitesimally lesser import.
            The complaint by the resident atheist is laughable and should be treated as such by any court if he is stupid and rancorous enough to file suit.

          • Doug Indeap

            Under the Constitution, treaties, like statutes, are the supreme law of the land.

            But the critical point of the declaration in the Treaty of Tripoli that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” is not just its legal effect. Quite apart from whatever legal effect the treaty may yet have, that declaration stands as a plain statement of fact by the government of the United States—when it was run by founders—that it (i.e., the government) was not in any sense founded on the Christian religion. Historical evidence hardly gets more plain and definitive than that.

            In this regard, it bears noting as well that the treaty was published in newspapers with this proclamation appended: “Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all others citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfil the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof.” As far as I am aware, there is no evidence that publication of the treaty prompted any public dissent.

      • JCMeg56

        The 1st Amendment protects the free exercise of religion by individuals. The protection against establishment of religion is against the government imposing itself on individuals by erecting LAWS, not an individual employee-officeholder using scripture in a memo. The elected officeholder is answerable to his electorate — campaign to remove him from office if your itty-bitty feelings are hurt. There is no substantial harm here — certainly nothing actionable.

        • Doug Indeap

          While the First Amendment undoubtedly was intended to preclude the government from enacting a law establishing a national religion as you note, that was hardly the limit of its intended scope. The first Congress debated and rejected just such a narrow provision (“no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed”) and ultimately chose the more broadly phrased prohibition now found in the Amendment. During his presidency, Madison vetoed two bills, neither of which would form a national religion or compel observance of any religion, on the ground that they were contrary to the establishment clause. Were the Amendment interpreted merely to preclude government from enacting a statute formally establishing a state church, the intent of the Amendment could easily be circumvented by government doing all sorts of things to promote this or that religion–stopping just short of cutting a ribbon to open its new church.

          You rightly note that it is important to distinguish between “individual” and “government” speech about religion since the Constitution protects the former and constrains the latter. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

  • Guzzman

    The sheriff’s office, being an arm of government, is subject to the Establishment Clause’s prohibition of governmental endorsement of a religious message. “Whether the key word is ‘endorsement’, ‘favoritism’, or ‘promotion’, the essential principle remains the same. The Establishment Clause [of the First Amendment], at the very least, prohibits government from appearing to take a position on questions of religious belief.” Allegheny County v. ACLU.

    What makes this violation even more egregious is that the message of the biblical verse is wildly inappropriate. Romans 13:4: “But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he [the one in authority] beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

    When has it ever been appropriate for a police officer to be a “revenger”, that is, someone who inflicts punishment on those accused of wrongdoing? That’s not the way our legal system even works. Police don’t determine guilt or innocence, and they are not responsible for carrying out punishment. That’s for the courts to decide.

  • Reason2012

    Search public school islam and read all about the growing number of cases of public schools forcing all kids to learn all about islam, but censoring Christianity. These “atheist” activists do not care in the least. But cite one verse out of the Bible and they go into high gear to censor Christianity. It shows that islamists are pretending to be atheists to eradicate Christianity while islam takes root in public schools. This is nothing but an attack from within against Christianity by islamists.

    • james blue

      Except for all the times FFRF goes after Islam in schools you are correct, they never do.

  • Bezukhov

    Now where did Jesus, or any other New Testament writer, ever encourage Christians to seek Earthly political power and ‘beareth the sword’?

    • Sven

      As if you knew.

      • Bezukhov

        I’ve read it many times, and I never seen it.

    • JCMeg56

      The Apostle Peter stated the divine justification and righteous duty of civil government when he admonished Christians to

      “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)

      Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. The role of the Church is not to govern non-believers. The law of God is written on our hearts. A well-formed Christian conscience needs no law to twist it into compliance with just laws. Peter (the 1st Pope) exhorted believers to honor the emperor and obey their governors.

      The Apostle Paul added:
      “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.” (Romans 13:1-7)
      Peter and Paul were the greatest of Jesus’s disciples. Their writing clearly establishes the locus for civil authority OUTSIDE of the Church. Then instructs us, as believers, to recognize and submit to that authority because civil authority is bestowed by God to keep the peace and order of society. Civil governors act in a ministerial function under God — but outside the Church. Civil government is the only other institution established by God outside of the Church, with the exception of the Family.
      So it is okay for Church and government to operate independent of one another. As long as civil authority was consistent with natural law, this was nit a problem. But we have lost our way as a nation and passed unjust and anti-Christian laws like legalizing contraception and abortion, and homosexual “marriage”; and enshrined gender confusion; and made corporations into “persons”; and allowed unconscionable economic usury laws that enslave working people require both parents to work thus undermining home and family life; along with dozens of other laws that permit discrimination and persecution against Christians who resist these unjust laws.

      • Chet

        And that’s why we believers are to Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus Ye Soldiers Of The Cross as the government in far too many cases has become not the ones so described in your quotes above.

  • Wyostk

    Come on now…., you don’t believe in God? Kind of strange that you let something you claim doesn’t exist…upset you so. Pretty sure the boogie man must scare you too. Sad way to live.

  • Chet

    Aw, just tell the FFRF to go pack sand as Christians and Jews don’t give a whit what they think… Believers, stop buckling at the knees in the face of godless anti Christ leftist adversity only to drop and roll over. Dare to be a Daniel and Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus Ye Soldiers Of The Cross…