ALPINE, Texas — A prominent professing atheist group is seeking to stop a Texas sheriff from placing cross decals on his deputy vehicles out of its assertion that doing so violates the U.S. Constitution.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) wrote to the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office on Monday after learning of Sheriff Ronny Dodson’s plan to place the crosses on the vehicles. It pointed to a status on the Office Facebook page, written by Debbie Skelton, the mother of a local deputy.
“We stand with Sheriff Ronny Dodson on his decision to place crosses on all of his deputies’ vehicles,” it reads in part. “He said that he wanted God’s protection over his deputies and that the thin blue line [on the crosses] stands for law enforcement.”
“As the mother of one of these officers, I appreciate this bold statement in a time when everyone is so worried about being ‘politically correct,'” Skelton stated.
But FFRF says that the placement of the decals is unlawful and violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“Displaying a Latin cross on Brewster County Sheriff’s Offices’ patrol vehicles violates the Establishment Clause,” staff attorney Sam Grover wrote in a letter to Dodson on Monday. “It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for a government entity to display a Latin cross on its property because it conveys a preference by the sheriff’s office—and by extension, Brewster County–for religion over non-religion and Christianity over all minority faiths.”
He asserted that some citizens who contact the police for help might become offended and feel inferior when they see the decals.
“These citizens should not be made to feel offended, excluded and like political outsiders because the local government they support with their taxes oversteps its power by prominently placing a religious statement on government vehicles,” Grover wrote.
FRRF subsequently asked that Dodson abandon his plan to place the cross decals on deputies’ vehicles.
It is not yet known whether or not Dodson intends to respond to the correspondence, but a post on the office Facebook page outlines that “we have asked the Texas Attorney General’s Office for an opinion on this issue and expect an answer soon.”
“[I]t is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord,” Abraham Lincoln stated in a proclamation on March 30, 1863 declaring a national day of fasting.