Biblical Image of ‘Jesus’ Shadow’ on a Fire Truck Leads to First Amendment Fears

A complaint over a Christian-themed picture on a 100-foot fire truck in Iowa has led to a debate over how officials will amend the image to make it more inclusive of other faiths.

Image source: KGAN-TV
The image on the back of a fire truck that is causing a stir in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Image source: KGAN-TV)

Cedar Rapids’ Civil Rights Commission recently received what it described as a “friendly complaint” about the picture, which features a firefighter and what some believe to be the shadow of Jesus Christ standing behind him.

The words “the Lord is my shepherd,” which come from Psalm 23:1 in the Bible, appear under the picture — a message and scene that has been plastered on the truck for the past 17 years without any vocal complaints.

But now at least one critic believes that the image could pose a potential First Amendment violation.

“We have an image that may be considered Christian and [the person complaining was] wondering if any government dollars were used to put it on there,” Civil Rights Commission executive director John-Paul Chaisson Cardenas told KGAN-TV.

But Cedar Rapids Fire Department Chief Mark English explained that the picture was on the truck when the department purchased it and that the Christian image wasn’t a request when it was ordered. The fire truck was built by Pierce Manufacturing in Appleton, Wis., and was purchased by Cedar Rapids in 1997, KCRG-TV reported.

English noted that many of his firefighters appreciate the message that the picture advances.

“A lot of them take personal solace in it and faith in it. They like it. They want to see it stay,” he said.

According to KGAN-TV, though, English is working with the Civil Rights Commission to try and draft an inclusive plan for how the picture should be amended.

There are currently two options: remove it entirely, which the city would likely pay to do, or add other faiths into the mix, which could be paid for by raising private funds.

While Cardenas said that removing the image is certainly an option, it appears the fire department is leaning more toward trying to include themes from other faiths, though it is unclear what the arrangement would like like.

Either way, the image will likely not remain in its current form.


Featured image via KGAN-TV