Religion

Florida Sheriff Under Fire from FFRF for Sermonizing in Uniform

| by Alexander Rubinstein

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd in response to sermons he delivered in uniform at the First Baptist Church at the Mall.

The Global Dispatch reports that Judd regularly gives sermons as a guest speaker at the church.  His most recent sermon was titled “Wouldn’t the World Be Better If Everyone Behaved Like a Christian”. In the video of the sermon on the church’s website, Judd says: “But this profession (policing) is ordained by God in Romans 13, verse four. It says ‘he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is God’s minister and avenger to execute the wrath on him who practices evil.’”

“Police officers are placed on earth to do right,” the Sheriff added.

In the sermon, he also says that the best way to reform those who have broken the law is through Jesus. He came out in support of faith-based jailing. He is listed repeatedly on the Church’s website which labels him as both a preacher and “Sheriff Grady Judd.”

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FFRF makes note of the fact that Judd represents a diverse population of others besides Christians. 30 percent of U.S. adults and 30 percent of Florida adults are non-Christian.

They say that he is making a message of official endorsement because he is sermonizing in uniform. Such an official endorsement is unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the constitution, which mandates a separation of church and state.

The “endorsement test” was proposed by the Supreme Court in 1984, according to Wikipedia. Judge O’Connor wrote: “endorsement sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.” FFRF claims that the sheriff was doing just that.

“Promoting your personal religion using a Polk County government title and uniform gives the unfortunate impression that the county supports and endorses the First Baptist Church on the Mall and its religious teachings,” the letter on the FFRF website reads.

FFRF also took exception to the Sheriff’s endorsement of faith-based jailing. They point to a study by Phil Zuckerman which indicates that the least religious countries in the world have the lowest rates of crime and score higher on women’s rights and gender equality, along with more civil liberties and better education.

The more religious states in the nation also have higher poverty, violent crime rates, STDs, obesity, teen pregnancy, and infant mortality, FFRF wrote. “Your claim that religiosity lowers crime is simply nonsense,” Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to Sheriff Judd in the letter.

The letter ends by asking the Sheriff to refrain from using his uniform and title as Polk County Sheriff while he delivers sermons

Sources: The Global Dispatch, First Baptist Church at the Mall, Wikipedia, The Freedom From Religion Foundation

Photo Credit: First Baptist Church at the Mall, Screen Shot