ICC Note: Following complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a sheriff’s office in Virginia will be removing Bible decals from their patrol cars. The decals referenced Matthew 5:9 and read, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The groups argued that the decals were a violation of the Establishment Clause by promoting Christianity above other religions.
By Heather Clark
05/22/2017 United States (Christian News Network) – A sheriff in Virginia has been instructed to remove decals bearing the words of Christ from patrol cars in the midst of an inquiry and complaints from two church-state separation groups.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office had been gifted with the decals in March, which quote from Matthew 5:9, which reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia and the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) soon complained about the stickers, claiming that they violated the separation of Church and State.
“A Bible verse … is a sectarian and exclusively religious statement,” FFRF attorney Sam Grover told reporters. “Under the Establishment Clause, the sheriff’s office, as a government entity, must remain neutral. It cannot promote one religion over another, or religion over non-religion.”
“It’s a biblical phrase … it’s directly on a sheriff’s vehicle,” ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Leslie Mehta also remarked. “So someone being stopped by a sheriff’s deputy may feel one way or the other, that you’re on my side because I’m a Christian or you’re not on my side. Either way, that presents a problem under the First Amendment.”
After receiving an inquiry from the Roanoke Times, the Board of Supervisors looked into the issue and also consulted with County Attorney Marty McMahon. In deciding that the decals could pose a legal issue, they sent a request to Sheriff C.H. Partin to remove the Scripture from patrol cars.