Church-state watchdog group sues Texas sheriff's office for religious decals

Published: Mar. 3, 2016 at 4:00 AM CST|Updated: May. 2, 2016 at 3:00 AM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A Texas sheriff's office is facing a lawsuit from a church-state watchdog group after the department put a religious decal on deputies' cruisers.

It's a trend that swept law enforcement agencies last year - special religious stickers placed on vehicles. In Southwest Louisiana, local forces made the move to place "In God We Trust" decals on city vehicles.

"It's not anything that is trying to persuade anyone to become a part of any kind of religion," said Councilman Rodney Geyen, who proposed the ordinance, "It's something that we thought was very nice that would enlighten the neighbors and bring the community together."

It passed unanimously, but Geyen expected opposition.

The American Civil Liberties Union spoke out against the decals.

"Don't want a member of the public to feel like somehow the police aren't there for them because they may not believe in God," said Marjorie Esman of the ACLU.

In Texas this week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) took legal action, filing a lawsuit against the Brewster County Sheriff's Office for a cross decal on their vehicles.

"We are talking about an entirely different thing," said Geyen, "In God We Trust is just a motto."

An attorney from the FFRF said filing a suit against groups with "In God We Trust" gets a little tricky. The foundation believes the phrase excludes people with different beliefs, but because it was coined the national motto, it's easier to get away with.

"If they're saying it's something we got away with," said Geyen, "Then they are just going to have to catch up with us and do what they have to do."

The FFRF wants to settle all of these matters out of court. They've already sent hundreds of letters to law enforcement across the country.

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