A sheriff of Brevard County, Florida, has refused to back down from the decision to place new decals on patrol cars that depict the phrase “In God We Trust” after an atheist group lodged a complaint.
“They have a better chance of me waking up thin tomorrow morning than they do of me taking that motto off our cars!” Sheriff Wayne Ivey told Fox News. “I personally believe that our country is at a tipping point, and if we, as strong patriotic Americans, don’t stand for the principals of our great nation, we are going to lose the America we all know and love!”
Ivey was responding to the complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which expressed its view in a letter that the new decal is “frightening and politically dubious.”
According to Ivey’s Facebook message to the community, the decals were suggested by an area military veteran.
“I can assure you that the proud men and women of our agency are forever unwavering in our support of the constitution and the principles of our amazing country,” the sheriff said.
In the letter to Ivey, FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor urged that the decals containing the phrase “In God We Trust” be removed.
“Spending taxpayer time placing religious messages on patrol cars is beyond the scope of secular government,” she wrote, adding:
Further, in a time when citizens nationwide are increasingly distrustful of law enforcement officers’ actions, it is frightening and politically dubious for the local police department to announce to citizens that officers rely on the judgment of a deity rather than on the judgment of the law.
David Williamson, director of FFRF’s Florida chapter, also said, “Law enforcement officers take an oath to protect and serve all citizens.”
“Displaying a preference for religion so clearly right on county property is a betrayal of that oath,” he added.
In his Facebook post, Ivey told members of the community about the “new patriotic look” of the county’s patrol vehicles:
In the coming months and years as our agency replaces our patrol fleet, our residents will see new patriotic graphics on our marked vehicles that show just how proud we are of our country and the principles our great nation was founded upon!!
While our vehicles will continue to include the iconic “Shuttle” design in honor of our Space Center history, they will now also include new graphics of an American Flag and the phrase “In God We Trust” that are both prominently displayed on each unit. To us there is no greater honor than to live in the greatest country in the world and serve as a law enforcement officer in Brevard County where our citizens love us, trust us and protect us just as much as we love, trust and protect them.
Evangelical leader Rev. Franklin Graham praised Ivey for his insight that “our country is at a tipping point.”
“There’s nothing frightening or political about it,” he posted to Facebook about the decision to place the decals.
“Share your support and encouragement with Sheriff Ivey and his force in the comments below,” Graham invited.
According to Fox News, Keisha Russell, counsel at First Liberty Institute, told Ivey to reject FFRF’s request to remove the decal because the group has “no basis in law, nor tradition.”
First Liberty special counsel for litigation and communications Jeremy Dys also told Fox News it is “absurd” to state that a Florida sheriff “posting the official mottos of both the United States and the State of Florida” is “acting ‘inappropriately.’”
“This attempt to scold a public servant for acknowledging one of the most cherished traditions of our country is shameful,” he said.