ICC NOTE: A county Sheriff is on the defensive against the American Atheists group for posts he included in the departments official Facebook page. The messages were in celebration of Easter explaining the best gift of all is eternal life through our Savior Jesus Christ. The posts garnered countless positive replies with some critical of the posts which led one local resident and the American Atheists to sue the Sheriff in federal court for causing “immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage” to the persons. The Sheriff has decided to fight them in court over his posts and The Alliance Defending Freedom has requested to defend him.
5/19/2016 Tennessee (Fox News) – A Tennessee lawman who posted an Easter message and other religious-themed comments on Facebook said Tuesday he is ready for a legal showdown with an atheist group that accused him of violating the Constitution.
Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson, who had the message posted on the department’s Facebook page on Easter, said he is considering a countersuit against American Atheists and a woman identified as “Jane Doe,” after they sued him in federal court over the message.
“Today is one of the most historic days; not only did Jesus die on the cross for our sins, but he rose on this day,” read the post. “Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice, and offered himself for our sins. This day represents the best gift any of us could receive, which is ‘Eternal Life’ with our Heavenly Father.”
Watson says the response to the post has been overwhelmingly positive.
“It has come to a point I can’t even keep up with the positive and ongoing images, texts and emails we have received supporting this effort in standing up for our religious freedom,” Watson told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “I am up until 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning responding.”
American Atheists denounced both the message and the apparent scrubbing of comments critical of the Easter post and Watson’s religious views. The group’s federal complaint charged that Watson’s religious post and subsequent deletion of critical comments “have caused and are causing immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage” to the plaintiffs.
In a letter to the sheriff the day after Easter, the Cranford, N.J.,-based atheist group said it had received a complaint from a Bradley County resident about the message and noted previous ones praising a recently deceased county resident as “a man of God,” decrying the dumping of tires in a church parking lot and wishing readers a “Merry Christmas.”
“I would like to make clear that neither the person who complained nor American Atheists has any issue with Sheriff Watson’s personal religion,” wrote Amanda Knief, national legal & public policy director for American Atheists Legal Center. “We believe strongly in the rights of individuals to their personal beliefs, religious or non-religious.