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Outraged Atheists Sue Police Over This One Little Sticker

Outraged Atheists are at it again. They’ve filed a lawsuit against Brewster County, Texas, as well as the county’s Sheriff Ronny Dodson for having small cross decals affixed to the police department’s patrol vehicles.

Read Related Article:  Defiant Sheriff Stands Firm Against Atheist Organization

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) contends that the cross decals constitute an endorsement of Christianity and puts Atheists in an awkward position in having to “hide their Atheism” in order to be treated fairly by Sheriff’s deputies. FFRF.org reported:

Local plaintiffs Kevin Price and Jesse Castillo, both atheists and members of the state/church watchdog organization, have come in regular contact with the Christian displays numerous times while out driving in the county. They do “not believe in any supernatural beings” and object to “an exclusively Christian religious symbol” being displayed on their county’s patrol vehicles, the suit notes.

Both men contend “the Latin crosses convey the divisive message that non-Christians . . . are not equally valued members of the community and that Christians are favored.”

[…]

Castillo “believes that the crosses heighten the stigma associated with being an atheist and that he might receive more favorable treatment from the Sheriff’s Office by hiding his atheism or by displaying pro-Christian messages,” states FFRF’s legal complaint.

It adds, “The Latin crosses represent an endorsement of religion, in this case Christianity, and have the principal effect of advancing religion. Their display by the government, therefore, runs afoul of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 6 of the Texas Constitution.”

We all know the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

Perhaps less well known is the other legal document that was mentioned by the FFRF in the lawsuit, namely the Texas Constitution. Here’s the state’s constitution, Article I, Section 6:

FREEDOM OF WORSHIP. All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences. No man shall be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent. No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society or mode of worship. But it shall be the duty of the Legislature to pass such laws as may be necessary to protect equally every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship.

Does the placement of small cross decals on publicly owned vehicles constitute a violation of the Texas Constitution, where it states that “no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society or mode of worship?” Isn’t a cross – which is commonly regarded as a “Christian” symbol – considered giving a preference towards Christianity?

Perhaps, but the Texas Constitution is similar to the U.S. Constitution in that both documents prohibit laws that give preferential treatment toward particular religious denominations. Are decals on public vehicles considered “law?” And how is forcing a public institution to remove these decals consistent with the U.S. Constitution which bars laws “prohibiting the free exercise thereof?”

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Philip Hodges

Phil has been writing about outrageous news and politics since 2012.

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