The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), one of the nation's largest organization of atheists and agnostics, is speaking out against a local police chief who placed a religious decal (photo below) on his official patrol vehicle in Harper, Kansas.
According to an official statement released by the FFRF, the decal in question says "Roman 13:4" which is a verse in the New Testament that reads: "For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."
The group, which works to promote and maintain the constitutional principle that separates church and state, says that making a religious reference on state-owned vehicle violates the First Amendment.
"The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that the First Amendment 'mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,'" wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel to Harper Police Chief Doug Murphy. "Placing decals referencing biblical quotes on the back of a law enforcement vehicle fails to respect either constitutional mandate of neutrality."
However, residents do not seem too concerned with this alleged transgression. “[The police officer] has a right to have it there if he wants to, if he had another kind of sticker would that make a difference?” community member Margaret Carrington asked local news station KSN.
The FFRF maintains that the decal is a serious matter, as placing religious symbols on official property goes against the government's commitment to secularism and shows a preference for religion over nonreligion.
"It's bizarre for the Harper Police Department to go down this road," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor in a statement. "It is inappropriate at every level for a government agency to reference intimidating biblical verses on official property."
The FFRF has protested a similar matter in Texas, when a local sheriff placed crosses on the back of patrol vehicles. The police department lost a lawsuit against the FFRF and the matter cost the county $20,000 in attorney fees.