Respectable citizens must be 'holy?'

North Carolina sheriff plays God

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is awaiting a response from the Onslow County Board of Commissioners regarding Sheriff Ed Brown's decision to blatantly violate the constitution via the distribution of an overtly religious message.

FFRF, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., is the nation's largest association of atheists and agnostics with more than 17,000 members, including nearly 400 in North Carolina. North Carolina is also home to a FFRF state chapter, the Triangle Freethought Society.

Sheriff Brown placed an advertisement in the Jacksonville Daily News on Oct. 23, 2011. This personal advertisement, sent and signed by the sheriff himself, is addressed to: "All Decent and Respectable Citizens of a Decent and Respectful Society." The top right hand corner of the ad displays the official badge and seal of the sheriff's office.

Local complainants notified FFRF of this illegal government endorsement and flagrant disregard for the Establishment Clause. FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott sent an advisory letter to the Onslow County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 16, requesting immediate action be taken to correct this transgression.

"This letter, endorsed by the county government in the person of the sheriff, is a violation of the Constitution. The sole purpose of the letter is to proselytize, to urge people to 'stand and be counted for the Cause of God,' and to bring people to the 'Truth of God.' 'Learning' and 'books' are denigrated while it is claimed that 'believers have a truth,'" wrote Elliott.

The sheriff's overt promotion of Christianity sends a message of rejection to non-Christians and non-believers and a message of approval to those adhering to the government prescribed faith. The Establishment Clause, separating religion from government does not permit government to align with any religious doctrine or organization.

"...It is absurd for an officer of human law to be preaching 'God's Law' and 'the Law of God, The Ten Commandments' from his official post. We are fortunate in this country to be free from religious police," noted Elliott.

FFRF requests that the Board of Commissioners confirm that no taxpayer funds were used for the purchase of the inappropriate ad. The Board should take the appropriate disciplinary action against the sheriff to ensure no further dissemination of religious messages in his official capacity. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

Contribute to Nonbelief Relief

FFRF privacy statement