One Florida Sheriff has really ticked off the anti-religious fanatics at the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Foundation, which loves to make sure that college coaches aren’t praying with their teams before games and Nativity scenes don’t show up in chow halls recently sprang into action when the organization learned that Florida Sheriff Frank McKeithen had placed some apparently terribly offensive bumper stickers on his patrol cars.
The bumper stickers, which were provided as a donation from a private citizen, said simply, “In God We Trust.”
Incidentally, this is the same motto on the badges of his deputies, on the dollars they carry in their wallets, and just happens to be the state and national motto.
Further investigation into the Bay County Sheriff’s Office revealed even more troubling information for the FFRF. The department webpage featured short videos featuring “The Christmas Story,” “The Chaplain Program,” and a seriously offensive video of a song entitled “Policeman’s Prayer” which features a policeman praying before his shift.
When asked about the bumper stickers, as reported by the Panama City Herald,
“McKeithen has said the gesture was meant to be inclusive and better the perception of law enforcement in the wake of negative national publicity.
As support for the stickers has begun to spread to neighboring law enforcement agencies, McKeithen said they aren’t going anywhere.”
For the Sheriff, it’s about morals and values. As he explained to WJHG News, as a leader, it’s important for him to take a stance whether or not everyone agrees with him. He said his desire for morals and values in the workplace is what made the idea stick.
“I certainly believe that the motto ‘In God We Trust’ is a perfect example of that and these are on my cars, they’re gonna be on my cars until I’m not here,” McKeithen said. “I feel very firm about it. I think it’s very important that if I’m going to be a constitutional officer, if I’m going to have officers out there working and going to your house to protect you and save you, that we should display our morals and values.”
McKeithen also says all of his officers support the decision. They wanted to make sure they all got a bumper sticker for their car.
I guess I don’t have to tell you what happened next.
A group of disapproving residents gathered in a light drizzle outside the Bay County Sheriff’s Office on Friday afternoon to protest a recent decision to adorn all marked patrol vehicles with “In God We Trust” bumper stickers.
However, they were greeted by a much larger group that supports Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen’s stance.
Fewer than a dozen protesters of the bumper stickers chanted “serve, not divide” among an overwhelming crowd of supporters who waved American flags and carried Bibles.
Most of the protesters said they felt like the Sheriff’s Office’s message is insensitive, exclusionary and a blatant overlapping of church and state.
When the “protest” failed to have the desired result, the Freedom From Religion Foundation came running to the rescue of those who don’t want to see the bumper sticker. In no time at all they fired off a letter and email to the Sheriff reminding him of all the court case laws and constitutional violations for which the department is guilty.
I hate to break it to the folks at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, but most cops believe in help from above. Just as there are no atheists in fox holes, there are few in patrol cars either. I know plenty of cops who pray before, during, and after work. If they’re not consciously praying out loud they’re certainly thinking, “Lord I could sure use a little help right now” while they’re trying to help deliver a baby in the back seat of a car, hold the hand of a dying teenager in a car wreck, or talk someone out of committing suicide.
After only a few hours on the job, they realize the impossibility of the task that lies before them — being a marriage counselor, a legal advisor, a horse, dog, cat, bull, alligator, snake, whisperer, a social worker, a role model, a sharpshooter, a car mechanic, a priest or pastor, a counselor, a sleuth, a shrink, and a walking encyclopedia. They must be all things to all people, and masters of communication. They must be comforters or conquerors and be able to shape shift between all these roles in a matter of seconds, as their lives often depend on their ability to do so. It is only the most arrogant fool who thinks they can face down pistols, knives, ice picks, two-by-fours, shot guns, pitch forks, baseball bats, paper weights, and chainsaws night after night and have the odds in their favor.
A long time ago a deputy sat in a patrol car for the first night of training and tried to change the car radio to a country channel from a religious station that the training officer was listening to. After some back and forth arguing (which would become a nightly routine for the next six weeks) the training deputy explained to the rookie, “this is a rough job out here and we need all the help we can get. We’re going to listen to Reverend Ike.”
The moral of this story is this: you guys at Freedom From Religion can say what you want and do what you want, but cops, first responders, firemen, Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen are going to keep praying if they want to. They don’t have the luxury of sitting behind a desk all day doing something as meaningless as worrying about a bumper sticker.
[Note: This article was written by Ashley Edwardson, proud to have served in law enforcement for over 20 years]