A Florida sheriff said on Nov. 7 there’s “a better chance of me waking up thin tomorrow morning” than of him removing the national motto—“In God We Trust”—from his department’s vehicles.
“They have a better chance of me waking up thin tomorrow morning than they do of me taking that motto off our cars,” Brevard County, Florida, Sheriff Wayne Ivey told The Epoch Times.
He was referring to an Oct. 28 letter he received from the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which stated that putting the motto on official vehicles is “inappropriate” because “statements about a god have no place on government-owned cars.”
“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 official vehicles,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor told Ivey in the letter.
Ivey told The Epoch Times that he has received “overwhelming support” from Brevard County citizens since announcing on the department’s Facebook page a few hours prior to getting the FFRF letter that the motto will be placed on new vehicles as older ones are retired from law enforcement service.
“When you call 911, we don’t ask you what political affiliation you are, we don’t ask you what God you believe in, we don’t ask you if you believe in God, we ask where you are so we can come save your life,” Ivey said.
Ivey said he thinks the FFRF “is trying to invent something, to make a point that they don’t have,” because the national motto is also the Florida state motto.
“If you look on every sheriff’s badge, every deputy sheriff’s badge, in the state of Florida, the words ‘In God We Trust’ are emblazoned on our badges,” Ivey said.
Ivey emphasized that he believes “our country is at a tipping point, and if we, as strong, patriotic Americans, don’t stand for the principles of our great nation, we are going to lose the America we all know and love.”
“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 Brevard County issue is the latest in a long-running series of efforts beginning in the 1950s by liberal groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and, more recently, the FFRF to remove religious references from all government and other public institution buildings, oaths, laws, proclamations, holiday displays, and announcements.
Their campaign has won numerous victories, typically after officials agree to the anti-religion demands in order to avoid costly litigation that diverts tax dollars from more pressing needs.
Carroll County, Maryland, officials, for example, voted Aug. 29 to settle a lawsuit by the American Humanists Association (AHA) against the use of prayers before county council meeting. The settlement included a $125,000 payment to the AHA.
But Keisha Russell, an attorney with the Plano, Texas-based First Liberty Institute, urged Ivey in a Nov. 1 letter “to ignore that [FFRF] letter entirely as having neither basis in law, nor tradition. In the unlikely event your department is subject to a lawsuit targeting the display of ‘In God We Trust,’ it would likely be unsuccessful.”
Russell told Ivey “the letter you received fails to cite the law even once. Rather, the letter appeals to emotion, dubious statistics, and questionable pleas to history. The reason for this failure is undoubtedly because it is nearly impossible to cite any precedential case invalidating the National Motto.”
The motto is “a plainly constitutional public acknowledgment of religion,” she said. Congress first authorized use of the motto on U.S. coins in 1865.
Chris Line, an FFRF attorney, told The Epoch Times on Nov. 7 that his foundation has received “no direct communication” from Ivey or other Brevard County officials in response to the Oct. 28 letter.
“We didn’t actually request a response in this case,” Line said. “We urged them to remove the ‘In God We Trust.’ We weren’t looking for a response, we were looking for them to do the right thing and remove this divisive language from the police vehicles.”
Line acknowledged that “courts have found the statement to be permissible. I think they are wrong, I think it is a religious statement, but we understand that’s how the courts are viewing it, so that’s why in this case we just tried to appeal to the Sheriff to let him know we were contacted by citizens of Brevard County.”
Line said FFRF “isn’t threatening a lawsuit or anything like that.”
Asked how the motto’s presence on police cruisers deprives citizens of equal justice under the law, Line said, “When the police are coming to help you and you see right on their vehicle or on their uniforms or wherever they are placing the motto, they are placing this religious promotion over the secular duties of the office.”
Contact Mark Tapscott at firstname.lastname@example.org