The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a group of “freethinkers” whose sole mission is to remove any possible mention of God or faith from daily public life, went after the Diboll Police Department in Texas over the patches stitched onto police officers’ uniforms – and it ended pretty epically.
The new patches were to feature a white star overlaying an outline of Texas, and emblazoned with the Biblical reference “Matt. 5:9”
Matthew 5:9 states, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
According to a statement from Police Chief Steve Baker, the scriptural reference “represents our faith in God that He will always be by our side to carry us through our darkest moments.”
In response, FFRF sent a letter to the police department on April 12 alleging that the patch “violates the Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment, and demanding that “[t]he bible reference must be removed from the patches.”
So they did…kind of.
"We are keeping the design, but replacing the verse with the words 'In God We Trust,' Baker told KLTV. “I talked to [Dobill City Attorney Jimmy] Cassels to make sure it would be okay, and he said the Attorney General said it can be okay, so that's what we will do."
So now, instead of simply including the rather vague “Matt 5:9,” officers with the Diboll Police Department will sport an even more blatant – and, apparently, perfectly legal – reference to God. All thanks to a fight picked by an atheist group.
In a press release issued on April 21, FFRF lauded their victory over the police department before finally admitting their win was pretty lackluster.
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor is happy that Diboll is removing the biblical reference, but is concerned about the substitution.
"We're glad that Cassels saw reason, even if reluctantly so," she says. "However, there's no reason to still display a religious slogan, especially a Johnny-come-lately, divisive quote that excludes nonbelievers.”
This isn’t the first time FFRF has gone head-to-head with police departments for daring to display a religious symbol while on the job. Last September, Childress Police Chief Adrian Garcia, also from Texas, told FFRF to “go fly a kite” after the activist group demanded he remove the “In God We Trust” bumper stickers from the department’s patrol cars.