Atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation has reportedly sued a Texas sheriff for putting cross decals on police vehicles.
FFRF, a watchdog group that monitors issues related to the separation of church and state, objects to "an exclusively Christian religious symbol" being displayed on public police cars, according to the lawsuit. The sheriff, Brewster County's Ronny Dodson, said in December 2015 that he wanted "God's protection over his deputies," according to a news release by FFRF.
Brewster is the largest county in Texas, although it has a population of only 10,000.
Local members of FFRF argued that the crosses "convey the divisive message that non-Christians ... are not equally valued members of the community and that Christians are favored." When the Brewer County Sheriff's Office posted on their Facebook page about the crosses, local FFRF member Kevin Price, who is involved with the lawsuit, left comments criticizing the sheriff's office's decision. Price was blocked from the office's Facebook page and his comments were deleted.
Brewster isn't the only part of the country where the issue of religion and police vehicles has caused controversy. In Louisiana, a campaign to place decals reading "In God We Trust" on city vehicles moved forward in 2015.
"It's not anything that is trying to persuade anyone to become a part of any kind of religion," Councilman Rodney Geyen, who proposed the decals, told KPLC. "It's something that we thought was very nice that would enlighten the neighbors and bring the community together." The proposal to use the cross decals passed unanimously, though Geyen says he expected at least some backlash.
The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the "In God We Trust" decals, saying that they don't want a member of the public to feel that the police aren't there for them because they aren't Christian, KPLC reports. Geyen said that they are "talking about an entirely different thing."
"'In God We Trust' is just a motto," he said.
The FFRF's legal complaint against the Sheriff Dodson argues that the crosses on the cars "represent an endorsement of a religion," and "have the principal effect of advancing religion." The FFRF argues that because the crosses are being displayed on government vehicles, the sheriff's actions violate the Texas constitution.