Atheists have filed a lawsuit against a Texas sheriff amid ongoing controversy surrounding various religious-themed decals that have been placed on patrol vehicles in counties across America.
While many of these local disputes have involved police vehicles that have the words “In God We Trust” on them, the lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation against Brewster County and Sheriff Ronny Dodson is centered around cross-themed decals.
The atheist organization joined two of its members — Kevin Price and Jesse Castillo — in filing the complaint, arguing that the Latin cross does not belong on official government vehicles, as the plaintiffs do “not believe in any supernatural beings” and say the image is a strictly Christian one.
“The crosses heighten the stigma associated with being an atheist and that he might receive more favorable treatment from the Sheriff’s Office by hiding his atheism or by displaying pro-Christian messages,” reads the complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, Alpine Division.
The lawsuit continues, “The Latin crosses represent an endorsement of religion, in this case Christianity, and have the principal effect of advancing religion. Their display by the government, therefore, runs afoul of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 6 of the Texas Constitution.”
The debate over the cross decals has been going on for quite some time, as Dodson asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton back in December if the stickers, which were donated, could remain on the vehicles, according to KTBC-TV.
The battle over the cross decals differs somewhat from the “In God We Trust” dispute, as the latter is the national motto and has been unsuccessfully challenged in the past. That said, atheist activists have expressed interest in trying to push back against those decals as well.
Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation told TheBlaze in August that the Freedom From Religion Foundation “would love to sue over a case” involving the “In God We Trust” decals. The group has sent letters to sheriffs offices across America demanding the removal of the decals.
“We can’t predict what we’ll do next,” he said, speaking of a specific case in Walton County, Florida. “Even if we wanted to sue we have to have a plaintiff there who’s willing to sign on.”
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