Montgomery County, VA - Montgomery County deputies have been forced to remove decals from their patrol cars after the county's lawyer told them it was a bad idea.
In a statement to Fox News, Sheriff C.H. Partin said that he was ordered on Thursday to remove decals, which had part of a Bible verse on it, from patrol cars.
The decals were placed on the vehicles in March, and have "Blessed are the peacemakers...Matthew 5:9" on them. The letters are in white and that's all there is.
Sheriff Partin said "Our intent was, and still is, to honor our fellow brothers and sisters in law enforcement."
Who's unhappy? The order came from the county's Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Chris Tuck told Todd Starnes, “In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with the statement itself." He said “Any individual can put that on your car however they would like. However, based on our legal advice, when you put, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ and make the reference to Matthew 5:9, there are some serious concerns about the Establishment Clause and Separation of Church and State and the First Amendment.”
It wasn't clarified if the sheriff could have just removed the reference to Matthew 5:9, and left "Blessed are the peacemakers."
Tuck said that the decision was made after consulting with the board's attorney, who told them that it was a violation of the First Amendment based on case law. He said that they could have ignored their attorney's advice but it could have put the county at a risk for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Tuck said that it came up when the local newspaper the Roanoke Times had sent "an inquiry," and that was the first notice they had received. He also said that he and the board were not consulted first before the sheriff had the decals put on MCSO vehicles.
On Thursday, the newspaper also had a story about the decals, and blamed county officials for asking about them. The reporter, Matt Gentry, said that the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Virginia branch of the ACLU called them "an unacceptable breach" of the separation between church and state, according to the Roanoke Times.
The decals were donated by the company that designs graphics for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office. Montgomery County Sheriff's Captain Brian Wright said, “We believe it’s a great way to honor our brothers and sisters in law enforcement during a time when many seek to tear them down."
They were removed at the end of National Police Week 2017. Sheriff Partin said, “In the midst of National Police Week, we want to focus on those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their communities. “The last thing that I want is for this to become a distraction to the men and women who serve their communities selflessly every day.”
Interestingly enough, about a year ago, the county Board of Supervisors voted to put "In God We Trust," on the wall of its meeting room.
Do you think that the decals should be allowed? Or are they an endorsement of a specific religion? We'd like to hear what you think. Please let us know in the comments.