County supervisors ordered a sheriff in Montgomery County, Virginia, to remove “Blessed are the peacemakers” decals from patrol cars after a local newspaper made an issue of the stickers.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office has had the “Blessed are the peacemakers … Matthew 5:9” decals in question on patrol cars since March.
“We believe it’s a great way to honor our brothers and sisters in law enforcement.”
The phrase comes from the Beatitudes, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” Matthew 5:9 says.
“We believe it’s a great way to honor our brothers and sisters in law enforcement during a time when many seek to tear them down,” Capt. Brian Wright, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, told The Roanoke Times.
But advocacy organizations — the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Freedom from Religion Foundation — complained about the stickers.
“A Bible verse … is a sectarian and exclusively religious statement,” Freedom from Religion Foundation attorney Sam Grover told reporters, according to the Christian News Network.
“Under the Establishment Clause, the sheriff’s office, as a government entity, must remain neutral,” Grover said. “It cannot promote one religion over another, or religion over non-religion.”
The decals seemed harmless enough, yet the legal questions raised made for a sticky situation. The county board of supervisors claims the addition of the decals on cars was not brought to its attention until recently.
“This was a decision, something the sheriff and his staff did. The board was not consulted,” Chris Tuck, chairman of the county’s board of supervisors, told The Roanoke Times.
“I could not imagine any elected leaders giving such a detestable order — so I reached out to the board of supervisors to verify the report,” Todd Starnes of Fox News wrote. “It turns out — they really gave that detestable order.”
That’s not all that Starnes concluded.
“I was curious, though — who raised a complaint about the decals in the first place?” Starnes wrote in his opinion piece at FoxNews.com.
“The first notice we had was an inquiry by The Roanoke Times,” Tuck told Starnes. “That was the first that the board received.”
“Well, there you have it, folks,” Starnes reported. “This is why people don’t like newspaper reporters. They stir up a stink when there’s no stink to stir.”
The board of supervisors ordered the removal of the decals on May 17.
“The decals were donated to our office,” Sheriff C.H. Partin said in a statement. “We planned to leave the decals on our vehicles until the end of National Police Week.”
National Police Week took place May 14-20.
“After receiving inquiries and a request from our Board of Supervisors to remove the decals I made the decision to immediately remove them,” Partin said last week. “In the midst of National Police Week, we want to focus on those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their communities.”