- The Washington Times - Friday, August 21, 2015

A conservative Christian legal group is coming to the defense of 17 police departments that drew fire from an atheist group for displaying “In God We Trust” decals on agency vehicles.

Over the summer, a slew of law enforcement agencies, from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office in Panama City, Florida to the Brookfield Police Department in Linn County, Missouri, emblazoned department vehicles with the bumper stickers. The move drew complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the separation of church and state. The group has sent letters to the agencies asking the to remove the decals, calling the action an “inappropriate and unconstitutional religious endorsement.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Washington, D.C.-based group, has now reached out to the 17 law enforcement agencies encouraging them not to remove the decals and offering legal assistance.

“We write to inform you that it does not violate the First Amendment for your team to continue displaying the national motto on department vehicles and to offer our legal assistance if FFRF or any other atheist group threatens your department with litigation over the use of ‘In God We Trust,’” the alliance wrote in letters to each agency.

“Americans should not be forced to abandon their heritage simply to appease the animosity of anti-religious groups toward anything that references God,” said Matt Sharp, legal counsel with ADF. “These departments should simply ignore the unfounded demands from these groups, especially since courts have upheld the national motto in a wide variety of other contexts for decades.”

Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen rolled out the decals on his agency’s vehicles in mid-July.

“It makes me want to at least show people that we have morals and values, and I certainly believe that the motto ‘In God We Trust‘ is a perfect example of that,” the sheriff told local news channel WMBB-TV.

“In God We Trust” was adopted as the national motto of the United States in 1956. Use of the motto on U.S. currency has been challenged in court several times, with the Supreme Court declining to hear a case in 2011.

In the latest challenge, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2014 that using the motto on currency did not violate the First Amendment or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because inclusion of the motto on currency did not “have a religious purpose or advance religion” nor did it “place a substantial burden on appellants’ religious practices.”

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