Freedom From Religion Foundation: Texas Cops To Remove Crosses From Vehicles In Settlement

Patricia Ramirez

The Freedom From Religion Foundation appears to have scored another victory for secularism in the United States, this time in Bewster County, Texas. The group and two of its members filed a lawsuit against the county back in March after a sheriff took it upon himself to add decals depicting Christian crosses to sheriff department vehicles. The crosses were affixed to a minimum of five vehicles, and the display was offensive to some non-Christians in the area.

As Patheos reports, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is "delighted" by the quick and amicable resolution of their lawsuit against Brewster County. Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said that the sheriff's vehicles were free of the offending crosses very quickly.

"The five Latin crosses on the Sheriff's vehicles were taken down almost immediately, which was a good faith effort by Brewster County to make sure they were not proselytizing the public through the Sheriff's Department. We knew very early in March that reason and the constitution would prevail."

On the organization's website, the Freedom From Religion Foundation went into some detail about the circumstances surrounding the lawsuit it filed to have the crosses removed from the Brewster County police vehicles.

According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, almost immediately after the lawsuit was filed against Brewster County back in March, county commissioners seemed to be willing to do what they needed to do to placate the organization and avoid costly litigation. After the filing of the March lawsuit, commissioners in Brewster County voted to placate the Freedom From Religion Foundation and banned "political, religious, commercial or personal" signs or phrases on county-owned property.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation says that today's settlement will affirm that decision and formalize it within the legal system of the State of Texas.

The official settlement was necessary because despite the Brewster County commission's vote to ban "political, religious, commercial or personal" signs on county property, which happened months ago, the county sheriff didn't remove the crosses from county-owned police vehicles.

On March 2, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed suit in U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, Alpine Division. Also named as plaintiffs in the Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuit were two locals, Price and Castillo. Both local plaintiffs are atheists and members of the organization.

According to the local plaintiffs in the case, they "came into regular and unwelcome contact with the Christian displays numerous times while out driving in the county."

"The Constitution demands respect for religious expression rather than hostility towards it and Governor Abbott fully supports Sheriff Dodson's decision to allow his deputies to display the Cross on their patrol vehicles."
"I strongly encourage the City of Orange to stand up to the demands of a select few who wish to see God thrown out of the public square, embrace the season of Christmas and restore the Nativity scene immediately."

Governor Abbott is also currently being sued by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for removing a secular display from the state capitol grounds during the 2015 holiday season. The secular display was approved the previous summer. It was labeled a "solstice display," and had been intended to counter the traditional Christian nativity scene displayed at the Texas Capitol annually. It lasted only three days before Abbott ordered its removal, and the Freedom From Religious Foundation is seeking damages in that case, saying that Abbott and other defendants "violated the free speech, equal protection and due process rights of the organization."

"The group is seeking a judgment that each defendant violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and clauses protecting free speech and equal protect rights and due process rights of the plaintiffs. It is asking for damages and reasonable costs and attorneys' fees."

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