For some reason, the Knoxville Police Department in Tennessee has had a plaque up in its headquarters for “generations” that quotes Romans 8:31.
What shall we then say to these things? If God is for us then who can be against us?
It’s always disturbing when a government-backed group with weapons acts like God is on their side. As if they can do no wrong and there’s a clearly defined “them” standing against God. What are atheists in the community to think?
The East Tennessee chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote an email to the department back in February asking for the plaque to be removed because it was a clear endorsement of Christianity:
… Please note that the Knoxville Police Department is a government entity and as such should be devoid of religious promotion of any kind. Having a Bible verse promotes one particular religion and in so doing is discriminatory toward those of other religions or no religion.
Please see that the verse is removed so that all who enter your police station may feel equally treated. If you have any questions about the legality of the verse, please check with Knoxville’s city attorney. Failure to have the verse removed may expose the KPD and/or the City of Knoxville to expensive litigation that cannot be won. I will be contacting you next month to learn what steps you have taken to address this problem.
It’s straightforward and, more importantly, it’s accurate.
But check out how a city attorney refused to admit any wrongdoing at all:
[City Law Director Charles] Swanson said the city could have defended the plaque in court against the group’s claim it violates principles of separation of church and state. But he said he agreed with Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero’s position not to spend taxpayer money to fund that defense.
“We could argue in favor it keeping it, what’s the real point?” Swanson said. “I don’t think it was in a place where the public could see it. But it certainly didn’t seem like it was worth financing a fight.”
That’s called “saving face.” Instead of admitting this was a sign endorsing religion, he basically blamed the atheists for trying to waste taxpayer money. He doesn’t mention that, if the police won in court, they wouldn’t be on the hook for any of the costs.
We also know Swanson is making an excuse because the department’s own internal emails confirmed what the FFRF chapter’s President Aleta Ledendecker said all along:
Emails obtained by the USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee show KPD officers and civilian personnel were upset by the news and faulted [Knoxville Mayor Madeline] Rogero for caving to the organization. Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch defended her.
“Let me make something abundantly clear,” Rausch wrote. “The mayor has not ordered the sign to be removed. This is a legal decision based on current case law that has been researched by our law department.”
To reiterate: Their law department researched it. There’s case law on the atheists’ side. But the police are still implying they would have won in court and just didn’t want to spend taxpayer money on this?
Forget a lengthy court battle. They should spend at least two minutes getting their story straight.
Rausch, for his part, offered these words for the atheists:
I appreciate that they brought this to my attention and I want to reassure people of all faiths and no faiths that the police are here to protect them.
Hahahahahahahaha. I’m just kidding. That’s what a smarter police chief would have said.
This is what Rausch actually said:
[Rausch] said he “will be praying for those who brought about this ‘issue’. I pray that their souls will be softened by the love of God, and they understand that they can have us remove words but they cannot remove our faith and what is in our hearts.”
What is this “our” and “they” shit? “They” are atheists in the community who want the police to uphold the law they’re sworn to protect. What’s in “our” hearts is the same as whatever’s in Rausch’s heart. If he doesn’t believe that, he should admit it more directly so atheists in the community know that he’s not interested in protecting them.
Incidentally, Ledendecker told me she never received any response from the Police Chief or Mayor after that first letter in February. Nor did she hear back from the Mayor after a second letter she sent in April. It was only after a third letter, sent a month ago and stating that they were going to take this story to the national FFRF team in two weeks’ time, that she finally heard anything back. Even then, it was only an acknowledgement that the city was looking into this issue.
The first time she learned that the plaque was coming down was through the local news earlier today.