Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office has proudly displayed the decal of the Bible verse on their patrol cars since March.
It reads: “Blessed are the peacemakers… Matthew 5:9.”
Now, Sheriff Hank Partin is ordering them removed because of threats from secular groups that oppose displays of religion in the public square.
Partin told the Roanoke Times, “The last thing that I want is for this to become a distraction to the men and women who serve their communities selflessly every day.”
Partin’s order resulted from pressure by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Virginia branch.
The groups began questioning Montgomery County officials about the decals shortly before the announcement was made. They accused the department of breaching the barrier separating Church and State by allowing the decals to remain.
“A Bible verse … is a sectarian and exclusively religious statement,” said FFRF staff attorney Sam Grover. He claims that the Montgomery Sheriff’s office must be “neutral” and that the decals “promote one religion over another religion.”
Chris Tuck, one of the Montgomery County Board members, stated that although he appreciates the verse, he agrees with the removal. “There is a separation of church and state and I feel that putting biblical verses on public vehicles violates the First Amendment.”
Other police forces have come under attacks from FFRF for openly showing their faith. Two years ago, the group protested decals displaying the same verse on vehicles belonging to an Alabama unit.
Last year, the FFRF also filed a law suit against the sheriff of Brewster County, Texas. It was over cross stickers on his officers’ vehicles.
Consequently, both groups removed their displays.