Police officials in Ohio removed a photo containing a cross from their department's Facebook page after receiving a complaint.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a Wisconsin-based group dedicated to the separation of church and state, asked Licking County’s sheriff’s office to take down the picture on Jan. 16. They claim the religious picture makes the department look like it's favoring Christianity over other religions.
“This proselytizing message gives the appearance of government endorsement of Christianity,” stated the letter written by Rebecca Markert, the foundation’s lawyer. “It also conflicts with personal religious and nonreligious views of many city residents and employees.”
Licking County police officials removed the photo by Jan. 23, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
In a press release given by the police department, Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorp said he decided to remove the photo after discussing the issue with Licking County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt.
Last December, the Licking County sheriff’s department posted the picture – a light-blue cross against a black background with the phrase, "Citizens, thank you for the support" – on its Facebook page.
Thorp said the department posted the photo to commemorate two New York City police officers who had been shot on Dec. 20, 2014.
“I think it was the emotions that the deputy was feeling at the time,” Thorp told the Columbus Dispatch earlier in January. “I don’t think he did anything with any intent to do anything wrong."
Markert said the use of this symbol violates the Constitution because the sheriff’s office incorporated the cross in a message sent by a public office.
Over the past year, FFRF has reportedly sent four letters to Licking Valley schools condemning the use of religious images and messages during instruction.