A North Carolina sheriff who drew national attention for refusing to remove a Bible verse from a wall in his office cited the need for ‘more Jesus’ as the reason for his decision not to comply with demands of a leading atheist legal organization. down.
Jody Greene, the sheriff of Columbus County, North Carolina, responded to concerns from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., about the Bible verse Philippians 4:13 posted on a wall in the sheriff’s office in a Facebook post last week.
The Facebook post came two weeks after FFRF staff attorney Christopher Line sent a letter to Greene asking him to remove the “exclusive” and “unconstitutional” religious display, which proclaims: “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me”.
Greene pushed back against the claim that the display constituted “government sponsorship of religious messages”.
The sheriff added: “The bible verse was placed on the wall after I took office. He was paid with private funds, not county funds. The verse is one of my favorite Bible verses, and it seemed appropriate for all the adversity I had to endure.
After describing the scripture as “very motivational for me and my staff”, Greene argued that there was a political motive behind the sudden outcry over his presence at the sheriff’s office: “I took many pictures with this bible verse in the background with not a single problem, but now that we are entering an election year, it is a problem. What nonsense !”
“It’s a political ploy. Some want a person they can control. Companies spend thousands of dollars on motivational courses, to come up with motivational slogans. My motivation comes from the greatest motivational speaker of all time, Jesus Christ,” he added.
Greene lamented that “drugs and violence are killing our youth” before concluding that “we need more Jesus and less politics”. He also expressed his gratitude for “all the phone calls and messages of support” for the Bible verse.
“I’m not afraid of much, but I’m afraid of burning in hell,” he said. The post included an image of the FFRF announcing a ‘shameless atheist/non-believer of the week’ with a photo of the ‘shameless freethinker’ in a ‘devil and flames silhouette’. Greene pointed to the image as a warning of “where our society is going”, as well as an example of the need to “stand up”. He further stated that “I will not give up my position and my Christian beliefs”.
FFRF co-chair Annie Laurie Gaylor explained the organization’s concerns in a statement. “The Columbus County Sheriff’s Office must serve all citizens equally, whether Christian or non-Christian,” she said. “An overtly Christian message in a law enforcement division sends a message of exclusion.”
In its Dec. 6 letter to Greene, Line noted that FFRF first became aware of the posting following a complaint from a “concerned Columbus County resident.” He asked the sheriff’s office to “respond in writing detailing what steps the sheriff’s office has taken” to rectify the complainant’s concerns.
Line listed several U.S. Supreme Court cases that have found that “the First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and non-religion.” He also argued that “the Establishment Clause, at the very least, prohibits the government from appearing to take a position on matters of religious belief” in an effort to support his claim that the display of Bible verses is unconstitutional. .
Line said the presence of Philippians 4:13 on a wall in the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office was not the only example of the government agency making an “unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity.” The FFRF attorney began the letter by noting that “we are still awaiting a response to our January 26, 2021 letter regarding the Sheriff’s Office regularly promoting Christianity on its official Facebook page.”
On Christmas Day 2020, the Sheriff’s Office posted a Christmas message on their Facebook account that read, “Merry Christmas everyone and happy birthday to our lord and saviour. To everyone working today, we thank you and wish you all a very Merry Christmas. #We believe in God.”
The sheriff’s office posted a similar message on its Facebook page this year.
In his response to FFRF, Greene detailed how Christianity plays a role in the daily operations of the sheriff’s office as well as in his own life: “Before executing a search warrant or any other service that puts our people in danger, we ALWAYS go to the Lord with group prayer. ALWAYS! I was raised in the church. I’ve been in law enforcement for over thirty years. My training taught me to appreciate God, my family and my country.
North Carolina resident Franklin Graham, CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and son of legendary televangelist Billy Graham, encouraged his followers to “pray for Sheriff Greene and his staff” in a Facebook post Monday. “I’m grateful that this sheriff knows where the real solution to life’s challenges and problems comes from, and he’s holding on,” Graham wrote.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be contacted at: [email protected]