WAYNE COUNTY, Miss - Sheriff Jody Ashley of the Wayne county Sheriff's Department recently tagged his patrol cars with "In God We Trust" decals in hopes to bring a positive and safe atmosphere for everyone in the county.
Sheriff Ashley says, "I wanted to do it for the people of Wayne county, this is a county that was ranked last year for one of the worst counties to live in. You know I think that it was something positive and I believe in God. God is in control and is part of our Sheriff's Department and you know to put it in the back of the cars is positive for Wayne county and it receives positive feedback."
Although Sheriff Ashley's intentions are good the First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Dianne Ellis a lawyer who fights for the separation of church and state says, "I think technically from a constitutional perspective, it should not be on the cars, government does not have the right to have a religion. I do not think our government is competent to tell people what to believe and what not to believe."
Sheriff Ashley mentions that it is not about encouraging religion, but protecting his deputies and community he serves.
"You know law enforcement is a dangerous job, to have God in your life and to pray before you go into a bad situation that's what we do and that's what we wanted to do put 'In God We Trust' because that what I wanted because I trust God everyday" says Sheriff Ashley.
The decals were donated and were at no cost to tax payers, but Ellis mentions it sends the wrong message.
"I think it would make anybody who is not Christian wonder if they are going to get fair treatment. If the Sheriff Department or the Police Department who has that on their cars is going to be prejudice against them and considering the various issues that is going on with that, I would think that they would want to let every person of Mississippi to know that everyone has equal rights. I would think they would make that a goal for them, that the goverment is here feel included, protected, and not just those who to go church on Sundays" says Ellis.
Sheriff Ashley has received positive feedback from all over the state of Mississippi.
Ellis indicates that Sheriff Ashley and the department could face a lawsuit, however she believes that Mississippi is a very religious state, it would not likely happen.
Sheriff Ashley's rebuttal to anyone disputing his decision, "In God We Trust is on the U.S. currency."