Called a “conservative caricature” by anti-religious groups in Brevard County Florida, Sheriff Wayne Ivey refuses to give into demands that call for the removal of the “In God we Trust” decals from police cruisers.
In 2019, police vehicles in the county, just south of Daytona, were redesigned with new graphics. The nod to God was called “inappropriate and exclusionary” by the population of atheists and agnostics, who say it violates the constitutional tenets of separation between the state and church.
But the sheriff refuses to back down.In the civil war-era, when religious sentiments were at an all-time high, the phrase “In God we Trust” started appearing on two-cent coins distributed in 1864. Affirming its combined patriotic and spiritual power, a law, headed by President Dwight Eisenhower, was passed by congress in 1956 mandating the motto appear on all American currency.
Though almost 70 years later it continues to stir opposition, the statement was upheld by the House of Representatives in 2011 as the country’s patriotic national motto. In 2006, a variation “In God is our Trust,” was passed by the state to be the official motto of Florida.In 2019, Sheriff Wayne Ivey, of Brevard County, redesigned police cruisers with new decals, the American flag on the side and just above the back bumper are the words, “In God we Trust,” a concept proposed by a local military veteran.After sharing the new design on the Sheriff’s Facebook page, Ivey was met with a lot of support by the local population that praised his decision.
One writes, “In God we trust is on our US Dollars and coins. Anyone who doesn’t like the saying, should donate all their money to the Sheriff’s Animal Shelter, so they don’t have to look at it and be offended.” A second adds, “I love the new Look! God bless America and may God Bless our BCSO! Keep them safe! God bless Sheriff Ivey!”A third comments, “BCSO is the best…thank you for doing this for our Veterans & all of the rest you do for us ‘In God We Trust’ also..”
Meanwhile, others were not impressed: “This is what happens when you give elected officials blank checks…surprising he [didn’t] put his face on them…” writes one. Another cyber citizen shares, “How is ‘in god we trust’ patriotic? Just because [it’s] on the U.S. currency doesn’t automatically make it patriotic. Now if it said proud to be an American [then] that would be patriotic.”
The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF)–a group “committed to the cherished principle of separation from state and church”–agrees and argues the “patriotic” decal is “frightening and politically dubious.”Calling for the decals to be removed, the Wisconsin-based FFRF wrote in a letter to Ivey, “Spending taxpayer time placing religious messages on patrol cars is beyond the scope of secular government.” Accusing the sheriff of suggesting God has jurisdiction over the law, the letter continued, “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.”
It’s reported that Boniface Heirs Automotive Group, of Melbourne Florida, sponsored the work at no cost to taxpayers.
Standing firm on his position that the slogan is patriotic more than religious, Sheriff Ivey told Fox News, “They have a better chance of me waking up thin tomorrow morning than they do of me taking that motto off our cars!” The next morning, he spoke with Fox & Friends and joked, “I think we can all see that didn’t happen…I didn’t wake up thin this morning, but I did wake up very proud to be an American and to protect the principles of our great country.”
The sheriff added that he expected backlash with the slogan “In God We Trust,” but as it’s the national and state motto, but insists it’s not so much about religion.
“It was the right thing to do and we’re standing by it,” Ivey said. “I personally believe that our country [is] at a tipping point and if strong patriotic Americans don’t start standing up for the great principles of this great country, we’re going to lose this great country.”
David Williamson, director of FFRF’s chapter in Florida argued, “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.”
Backed by the Supreme Court, counsel with First Liberty–that defends religious liberties in the U.S.–advised the sheriff to reject FFRF’s request, citing that the motto “should be honored and celebrated as an expression of what it means to be American.”
“It is absurd to think that a Florida sheriff would be acting ‘inappropriately’ for posting the official mottos of both the United States and the State of Florida,” counsel told Fox News. “This attempt to scold a public servant for acknowledging one of the most cherished traditions of our country is shameful.”
It appears that Sheriff Ivey won that battle.
Religion and the state is a tough and sensitive conversation. Because the slogan “In God we Trust” has been around since before the civil war, and now the official motto of the U.S., we understand how it’s a symbol of comfort and patriotism to Americans. The statement is also on currency so it’s something that goes way beyond what Sheriff Ivey decided with the cruisers.
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