Congress Shall Make No Law Respecting an Establishment of Religion, or Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof.
Those are the first 16 words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Consitution, it’s known as the Establishment Clause. That’s why the Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene to have the words removed from the wall calling them a direct violation of the First Amendment.
Greene was unable to be reached for an interview. However, a Columbus County Spokeswoman said: “Sheriff is booked solid for this week and doesn’t have time for an interview. He advised that the bible verse on the wall will not be coming down.”
“Obviously, that is a very disappointing response. Right on the front page of the Sheriff’s Office’s website, it says, ‘We are dedicated to protecting the innocent and safeguarding lives and property, while always respecting the constitutional rights of others,’” staff attorney for FFRF Chris Line said.
“It is a shame that the Sheriff’s Office isn’t willing to live up to that and instead they are choosing to violate their citizens’ constitutional rights by brazenly endorsing Christianity. The Sheriff’s Office serves all citizens regardless of belief or nonbelief, and this display alienates all of Columbus County’s non-Christian residents,” he continued.
“We are looking at all of our options at this time. We will talk with our local complainant and evaluate whether a lawsuit is the best course of action to resolve this constitutional violation, but we are also hopeful that other members of the Columbus County community will come forward, whether it be to speak out about this issue or to join in any potential litigation,” Line said.
“The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law ‘respecting an establishment of religion.’ This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion,” according to Cornell’s Legal Information Institute.
Sheriff Greene did find time to post on Facebook however.
“I am not scared of much, but I am afraid of burning in Hell,” Sheriff Jody Greene says in the post.
“The Freedom from Religion Foundation, mocks Christians’ fear of burning in Hell. According to their Facebook page, they have a contest for the Unabashed Atheist/Nonbeliever of the Week. … It is time, past time, to stand up. So let me be clear, I will not (waver) on my stance and Christian beliefs.”
“This bible verse display promoting Christianity in a sheriff’s office building is correctly viewed by a reasonable observer as an endorsement of religion, and is therefore unconstitutional,” Line said in the release.
Greene’s Facebook post didn’t contest that observation. He took full responsibility for the quote, noting it was put on the wall after he took office, using private funds.
The quote is intended to be motivational, he wrote, and is part of a office atmosphere that encourages prayer “before we execute a search warrant, or any service that puts our people in immediate harms way.”
“I have taken many pictures with that Bible verse in the backdrop with not a single issue, but now that we are going into an election year, it is an issue,” Greene wrote.
“How absurd! … This is a political ploy. Some want a person that they can control. Companies spend thousands of dollars on motivational classes, to come up with motivational slogans. My motivation comes from the greatest motivational speaker of all times, Jesus Christ.”