The Bible verse decals that have adorned Montgomery County (VA) Sheriff’s Office vehicles since March are coming off immediately, Sheriff Hank Partin said in a Thursday statement.
Announcement of the decals’ removal came after county officials began asking about them and as the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union called the markings an unacceptable breach of the U.S. Constitution’s wall between church and state, reports the Roanoke Times.
“A Bible verse … is a sectarian and exclusively religious statement,” said Sam Grover, staff attorney for the Madison, WI-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. “Under the Establishment Clause, the sheriff’s office, as a government entity, must remain neutral. It cannot promote one religion over another, or religion over non-religion.”
The Montgomery County decals on the back of patrol cars read, “Blessed are the peacemakers… Matthew 5:9.”
The decals were put on vehicles in March and were donated by the company that designs graphics for the county Sheriff’s Office, Capt. Brian Wright, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, wrote in an email Tuesday.
“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,” Wright wrote.
However, on Thursday, Partin released a statement that read, in part: “In the midst of National Police Week, we want to focus on those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their communities. The last thing that I want is for this to become a distraction to the men and women who serve their communities selflessly every day.”