HOUSTON COUNTY, Ala. — A prominent atheist activist organization is demanding the removal of a Scripture decal that an Alabama sheriff recently had affixed to his department’s patrol vehicles.
As previously reported, last month, Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza purchased decals citing Matthew 5:9, and quoting the Scripture in part, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
“I’ve always had religious belief, and I feel like that’s kept me alive,” he told the Dothan Eagle. “It symbolizes the Houston County Sheriff’s Office.”
The Sheriff’s Department posted a photo of the decal on its Facebook page, which sparked discussion from both sides.
“I love the decal Sheriff Valenza. God bless you and all of your team,” one commenter named Keener wrote. “You are representing the vast majority of the people of this area.”
“Thank you for having the courage to display the decal! Maybe others will follow,” remarked another named Mike.
“It is inappropriate for the sheriff’s office to display Bible verses on county property,” asserted a third resident named William. “Religious statements have no place on sheriff’ department vehicles.”
Now, the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has become involved, and has sent a letter to Valenza demanding that the decals be removed because they promote Christianity with taxpayer dollars.
“Placing decals that literally quote chapter and verse on Houston County property is a clear endorsement of Christianity, especially when the quote is viewed in its full context,” the letter reads.
“[It] alienates the nearly 30 percent of Americans who are non-Christian,” it contends. “This religious display undermines the credibility of the sheriff’s office in the eyes of the nonreligious and minority religious citizens.”
While Valenza has not yet responded, according to Al.com, FFRF has threatened further action if the decals are not removed, including a possible lawsuit.