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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