A sheriff who delivered a Christian sermon in uniform is under fire over claims that he violated the separation of church and state, but the top cop says he has no plans of backing down.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd spoke at First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Florida, two months ago on April 19, leading the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, to send a letter of rebuke on Monday, demanding that he longer appear in uniform on church stages.
"Wouldn’t the world be better if everyone behaved like a Christian?" Judd uttered from the stage, noting that the line was the title of his sermon, WKMG-TV reported.
He proceeded to tell church members about a program he launched back in 2005 for faith-based jail dorms -- one that was funded without public money, according to the Tampa Tribune.
Watch the sermon below:
In its letter, the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded that Judd stop speaking at churches in uniform and inform the group of the steps he will take to remedy the complaint, the outlet reported.
"Promoting your personal religion using your Polk County title and uniform gives the unfortunate impression that the county supports and endorses the First Baptist Church on the Mall and its religious teachings," Freedom From Religion Foundation staff attorney Andrew Seidel wrote.
He added, "You cannot preach in church as Sheriff Judd, you must do so as Mr. Judd, private citizen."
But the sheriff told the Tampa Tribune that he won't be abiding by the atheist group's demands and that he, in fact, plans to speak this Sunday at another church -- Lakeland's Fellowship Assembly of God.
"I found it humorous and entertaining. They obviously mischaracterized the sermon I preached," he said. "I was shocked. It is most bizarre."
Judd added, "I'm gonna wear my uniform - you can guarantee it."