The police department in Grovetown, Georgia recently put the words “In God We Trust” on the backs of all their cars.
This is, as far as courts are concerned, perfectly legal since the phrase is our national motto (Update: I should clarify that courts usually let this slide only if there’s no obvious religious intent behind the move, like a sheriff saying he’s doing this specifically to promote Christianity, but that’s not to say it can’t be challenged). But we know that’s just the loophole Christians are using to put their brand of faith on government vehicles. If they can’t promote Jesus directly, this phrase sends the signal all the same.
Mayor Gary Jones was proud of it, even posting an image of the new stickers on Facebook.
But citizen Ron Battista felt he should at least remind Jones that there were atheists in the community who didn’t feel the same way he did about this message.
He sent an email to Jones explaining all this. It’s not the letter I would’ve written, but the point still comes across.
I know you won’t change your mind, but you should know that the proposed police car stickers that proclaim “In God We Trust” is troubling to those of us who do not believe in the Christian “God”, be they practitioners of different faith or practitioners of none. You should choose to be inclusive as a public servant. But you think your faith is more important than your civic duty, it seems.
Do we have a Christian police force? Did you ask them when you decided to festoon their cars with religious slogans?
I know stunts like this play well politically in places like Columbia County but you should probably pay more attention to the overloaded infrastructure that can’t handle all of the commercial and residential expansion in Grovetown rather than push people’s buttons on matters of church and state.
As I said, I might as well talk to a wall from the impression I get of you but I thought I’d try anyway.
Okay, so it’s not entirely polite. They still emailed back and forth a few times, and Jones, as expected, didn’t budge. Somehow, their exchange ended with the Mayor telling Battista: “Do not email me again or I will seek a warrant for your arrest.”
So that went well.
You can read the full story here.
Battista isn’t wrong, however, to bring up the fact that this message is a horrible one, especially if the goal is to make members of the community feel safer. I know what goes through my mind when I see that phrase on police cars: If a driver with a Jesus Fish on the back of his car and I are stopped for doing the same thing, I’m more likely to be punished. Police departments should be in the business of making sure all citizens feel like the cops have their back, not just the ones who belong in the majority faith.
In Grovetown, the police and Mayor don’t give a damn about that. They’re more concerned about promoting Christianity even if that excludes the very people they’re sworn to protect.
***Update***: Ron has posted an update to this story here. He urges people not to harass the mayor. Criticize his actions. Voice your opinions. But don’t be an asshole to him. The reactions he’s getting are completely over the top.