Brevard County, FL – A national atheist and agnostic group has demanded that the Brevard County sheriff abandon his plan to put “In God We Trust” decals on his department’s new patrol vehicles.
Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor sent Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey a letter on Oct. 28 expressing the group’s displeasure with the message on his patrol cars, Florida Today reported.
“In a time when citizens nationwide are increasingly distrustful of law enforcement officers’ actions, it is frightening and politically dubious for the local police department to announce to citizens that officers rely on the judgment of a deity, rather than on the judgment of the law,” Gaylor wrote.
She alleged that the decals were a misuse of taxpayer time and funds, and said that the decals were “a religious endorsement” that was “beyond the scope of secular government,” Florida Today reported.
But Sheriff Ivey was entirely unswayed by Gaylor’s complaint.
“They got a better chance of me waking up thin in the morning than they do of me not having that on our cars, and I think we both know that’s not going to happen,” he told WOFL. “It really represents everything that’s important to us here in our community.”
Sheriff Ivey said that the group’s letter “doesn’t even rise to the level of a response” from him, and that he is “focused on the important things,” WOFL reported.
According to Sheriff Ivey, the decals won’t cost taxpayers a dime, thanks to a generous donation by Boniface Heirs Automotive Group, Florida Today reported.
“We truly can’t thank A.J. and his team enough for all they continue to do for our community,” the sheriff said. “As was previously indicated, the design is only going on new vehicles, as they rotate into our fleet, and not on already existing vehicles.”
Sheriff Ivey noted that his department spoke with local veterans before they finalized the new patrol car design, which also includes a sheriff’s star, a space shuttle, and a billowing American Flag.
“They greatly appreciated that we chose to honor the flag and principles of our great nation that our veterans fought to defend, and wondered why it was not already emblazoned on every vehicle we have,” he told Florida Today.
The Florida Legislature adopted “In God We Trust” as the state’s motto in 2006, according to the paper.
Sheriff Ivey said that federal courts have repeatedly ruled that the use of the motto “in this context” is not unconstitutional.
“’In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion,” the sheriff told Florida Today. “Its use is of a patriotic or ceremonial character, and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.”
Sheriff Ivey posted photos and background information about the fleet’s new patriotic design in a Facebook post on Oct. 27.
“In the coming months and years as our agency replaces our patrol fleet, our residents will see new patriotic graphics on our marked vehicles that show just how proud we are of our country and the principles our great nation was founded upon!!” the sheriff wrote.
“To us there is no greater honor than to live in the greatest country in the world and serve as a law enforcement officer in Brevard County where our citizens love us, trust us and protect us just as much as we love, trust and protect them,” he added. “We hope you like the new patriotic design and as always…thank you for your amazing support of the nearly 1500 members of your Brevard County Sheriff’s Office!!”