A couple days ago, I mentioned that Polk County (Florida) Sheriff Grady Judd removed basketball hoops from the county jail — because why should criminals be allowed any sort of fun recreation? — and gave them to local churches.
The Atheists of Florida were already planning a lawsuit.
What’s happened in the past couple days?
Judd is bathing in his newfound power. With an offer of free legal representation, he’s telling the atheists to bring it on:
“[The atheists] have no idea how much I look forward to their silliness,” Judd told reporters.
The group’s legal coordinator, EllenBeth Wachs, wrote Judd a cease-and-desist letter Tuesday saying the donation violated the state constitution and U.S. Constitution, specifically the First Amendment. The donation “cannot avoid excessive entanglement by the government with religion,” she wrote.
Wachs asked for a written response in five days, but Judd said he doesn’t plan to respond.
The goals could have been placed at a school or park, Wachs said.
But Judd said he considers giving the goals to a secular group bowing to the atheist group.
“Why should I kowtow?” he said.
Wow. According to Judd, giving the basketball hoops to a public school would be caving in to the atheists’ demands…
Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post feels the same way you feel and he has a scathing critique of Judd, suggesting that he’s really just making a “FOX News audition tape” and that he serves up a “pure moron elixir”:
Inmates in the Polk County Jail get three hours of recreation time per week. Yes, for every 168 hours they’re locked up, they get to have three of them spent in an outdoor cage where, according to the sheriff’s web site, they can “play basketball, read newspapers, or just sit around in the fresh air.”
And somehow that’s enviable enough to make the people driving by wish that somehow they could trade places?
“What are the inmates going to do for recreation without basketball?” I asked.
“The exercise can be self-induced now,” Judd said. “They can do sit-ups, jumping jacks or run around.”
(Presumably in a way that doesn’t make it look like they’re in a fitness center.)
Cerabino also points out that some of the inmates weren’t even convicted yet. They were only there pre-trial. But that doesn’t seem to make a difference for Judd, who thinks if you’re accused, you must be guilty of something.
“They’re all there because of probable cause that they committed a crime,” he said. “The solution is if you don’t like county jail, stay out of it.”
And what about the lawsuit?
Judd brushed aside the atheists, calling them an “small, obscure group”, and reveled in their opposition, saying it has already resulted in support from the community and a local law firm offering to defend his actions in a lawsuit.
And who cares about the constitution anyway? The people who robustly fetishize the constitution over health care and other conservative bugaboos won’t say a peep here. It’s only a selectively sacred document.
“You know you’re just helping him out,” I told Wachs from the atheist group. “It doesn’t matter if you’re right. He gets to grandstand against criminals and atheists at the same time…”
I hope the Atheists of Florida can make the lawsuit happen. Let the Sheriff defend what he did in court. Free representation or not, I don’t see how his actions are legal.