Freethought Today · June / July 2016

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Texas county settles quickly after suit filed

A federal lawsuit filed by FFRF and two local plaintiffs over Latin cross decals on a Texas county's patrol vehicles has been settled in FFRF's favor.

Brewster County has officially consented to remove the religious decals (and not display them in the future) and to reimburse legal fees for the attorneys.

"We are very delighted that our lawsuit has been resolved so quickly and amicably," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "The five Latin crosses on the sheriff's vehicles were taken down almost immediately, which was a good faith effort by Brewster County to make sure they were not proselytizing the public through the Sheriff's Department. We knew very early in March that reason and the U.S. Constitution would prevail."

The two local plaintiffs — Kevin Price and Jesse Castillo — were each awarded nominal damages of $1. FFRF was represented by its Staff Attorneys Sam Grover and Patrick Elliott and by Texas litigator Randall Kallinen. Gaylor said it's believed the county judge would sign a settlement awarding FFRF approximately $14,000 to cover its legal fees.

The suit was precipitated by Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson's announcement last December that he "wanted God's protection over his deputies" in deciding to place the prominent crosses on at least five county law enforcement vehicles. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court, Western

District of Texas, Alpine Division, on March 2.

Prior to the lawsuit, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott defended Dodson's actions and even submitted a legal memo to state Attorney General Ken Paxton erroneously insisting that Christian crosses may be legally displayed on sheriffs' vehicles.

Brewster County is located in the western part of the state, with a population of less than 10,000. Its county seat and only city is Alpine. According to the Texas Observer, the county is the largest in the state—"five times the size of Rhode Island, three times the size of Delaware and 500 square miles larger than Connecticut."

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