- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2016

An atheist group and a Tennessee sheriff have reached a settlement in a lawsuit over the latter’s Easter-themed message on Facebook this March, the Cleveland [Tenn.] Banner reported on Friday.

The plaintiffs will be paid $15,000 in damages and their attorneys will recoup $26,000 in legal fees, paid out by a lawsuit-insurance fund paid into by local taxpayers, the newspaper noted.

The controversy stemmed from a March 2016 posting on Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson’s official Facebook page that read, “He is Risen,” referring to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What’s more, as the Cleveland Banner reported back in June, American Atheists Inc. complained in the court filing that someone with control of Mr. Watson’s sheriff’s page was deleting dissenting viewpoints and blocking those who posted them.

While they initially filed in federal court, both Sheriff Watson and the atheist group agreed to mediation, which concluded in July, and on Thursday finalized the out-of-court settlement, the Cleveland Banner said.

“Neither the county nor Watson admitted to any wrongdoing in the final document,” reported the paper, but as a result of the agreement, the county agreed to no longer operate a Facebook page for the sheriff’s department, while Mr. Watson agrees to include a disclaimer on his personal page reading, “This is the personal Facebook page of Eric Watson. The opinions or perspectives asserted herein are those of Eric Watson as an individual. This Facebook page is not owned by or monitored by Bradley County or the Bradley County Sheriff’s Department.”

A former Republican state legislator, the sheriff was elected in 2014, according to Ballotpedia.

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