The buzz is usually about who’s in police cars – not what’s on them. But that’s all changed after the explosion of the national motto bumper stickers cropping up on vehicles across the country. No one knows exactly how it started, but since mid-summer, it’s become a national phenomenon. In Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Missouri, Texas, Florida, and other states, policemen are combatting the negativity about law enforcement by proudly sticking “In God We Trust” on their fleets.
Florida’s Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen thought the idea was so great that he offered to pay for 200 of them out of pocket. But he never got the chance. An anonymous donor stepped up to buy hundreds for the local stations – a trend that’s continued in counties all over America. “I’m not hiding from the fact that it’s religious, and I’m not trying to make an excuse for the fact that it’s religious,” McKeithen said. At his agency, he explained, “We still pray. We pray before we go to a horrible situation where we think someone could get hurt or killed.”
And they aren’t alone. In Missouri, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader made no apologies for the move. “There has been no better time than now to proudly display our national motto,” Rader explained in a post that’s had more than two million views. “I’m very humbled at the amount of support behind it.” As usual, the spoilsports at Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) are desperate to put the brakes on the craze. But so far, they haven’t had much luck. The initiative is so popular that the Foundation was forced to hunt for an offended party in blast emails. “Specifically,” they wrote in a recent all-call, “we’re searching for police officers and sheriff’s deputies who are being affected by this — these bumper stickers — and being forced to drive around cars that proclaim religious belief.”
In the meantime, the group has sent more than 50 cease and desist letters to law enforcement agencies across the country. If that was supposed to scare people like Texas Police Chief Adrian Garcia, it didn’t. “Go fly a kite,” he wrote back. Another station fired back “NO” in big letters.
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In Bay County, another one of the Foundation’s targets, a reporter asked if Sheriff McKeithen would pull down his viral videos after FFRF’s legal threat. Actually, he shrugged, “I plan on adding a few more.” In most cases, the stickers were donated by local citizens. But even that didn’t satisfy the secularists. “The fact that these stickers were privately funded indicates that you know it is inappropriate for the government to fund religious statements.”
Of course, the irony is that the government has been funding religious statements since 1957 — on our currency. The national motto didn’t suddenly become unconstitutional just because it’s on a police car instead! Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton agrees. This week, he released a formal opinion responding to the Foundation’s complaint. “There is an unbroken history of official acknowledgment by all three branches of government of the role of religion in American life from at least 1789.’ (Lynch, 465 U.S. at 674.) A law enforcement department’s decision to display the national motto on its vehicles is consistent with that history. Thus, a court is likely to conclude that a law enforcement department’s display of ‘In God We Trust’ on its patrol vehicles is permissible under the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
Good for him! Surely, America’s police force has more important things to respond to than a petty lawsuit. While the fringe groups like FFRF try to recruit people for their intimidation campaign, most people agree with Sheriff McKeithen: “Morals and ethics [are]… what law enforcement’s supposed to be about.” With reminders like this one, he hopes more people are convicted — in a different kind of way.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.