An atheist group says plans to put an "In God We Trust" decal on the back of new police cars in Brevard County, Florida is an "inappropriate" injection of religion into public life.
Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) warned in an October 28th letter to Sheriff Wayne Ivey that the decals amount to an unconstitutional "endorsement" of religion. "Statements about a god have no place on government-owned cars. Public officials should not use their government position and government property to promote their religious views," Gaylor wrote.
And yet, "In God We Trust" is the national motto, as well as the motto of the State of Florida. It's also on US money and is displayed in many courtrooms and government buildings across the country, including the US Capitol. On its website, the FFRF calls the national motto "controversial."
Brevard County Commissioner Curt Smith told Florida Today he feels "very strongly" that the sheriff should be able to place the "In God We Trust" motto on Brevard County vehicles.
"This is America," Smith said, a country that has Judeo-Christian roots.
Sheriff Ivey said federal courts have held that "there is absolutely nothing wrong with" the usage of the "In God We Trust" motto "in this context," according to Florida Today.
Ivey went on to cite one court ruling "that the national motto 'In God We Trust' has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of a patriotic or ceremonial character, and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise."
Also, the sheriff said, no taxpayer dollars are involved with the new decals, which include a waving American flag on the front doors of the cars. A local automotive group is donating the new decals.
A similar situation happened in Walton County, Florida in 2015. The Inquisitr reported the Freedom From Religion Foundation objected to "In God We Trust" decals on police vehicles there and said they must be removed. Sheriff Michael Adkinson refused to comply. The decals were paid for by a private citizen in that case as well.
The FFRF, which says on its website that it "has worked tirelessly to expose the evils of religion," is the same group that objected to the governor of Oklahoma speaking at his own church unless there was no mention of him being the governor. It also came against a mentoring program in a Tennessee public school, claiming the volunteer mentors from a local church were "proselytizing" needy students, though no evidence was presented to show that.
In most cases, as with the Florida sheriffs, religious believers have resisted the atheist group's warnings, or in the case of public schools, adjusted, by making sure that the free exercise of religious belief, like prayers before football games or in school locker rooms, was student-initiated. The FFRF continues its efforts to strip any expressions of religious belief or conscience from the public square.