In God We Trust: Are we losing our religion? - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

48 First Alert Investigation

In God We Trust: Are we losing our religion?

(WAFF) -

Since the image with our nation's motto slapped on the back of a Childress, Texas patrol car hit the internet, it's blown up with overwhelming support on social media.

Especially after the department came under the attack by the Freedom from Religion Foundation or FFRF. They claim that motto has no business on a patrol car and wants the chief to immediately remove it.

The Chief's response, "go fly a kite".

"And we will fly that kite very proudly. And that kite will say in reason we trust. And we will tell that police chief in Childress, Texas that winds of change are coming, and they will lift out kite saying in reason we trust very high,”
said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF Co-President.

"It's an inappropriate motto for a secular republic,” said Gaylor.

We discovered the Childress PD isn't alone, in recent months nearly three dozen police and sheriff departments have gotten the same warning from the Foundation.

But it does not stop there, schools here in the valley have also been confronted the same organization.

And just a couple of months ago, the Foundation wrote Madison City Schools over allegations that the volleyball coach held prayer with players.

In 2012, Russellville City Schools received backlash from the Foundation for baptizing students on the football field.

In 2012, a Marshall County Schools foundation requested that they stop having prayer before school board meetings and athletic events.

Also that year, the Foundation sent Jackson County Schools officials a letter requesting they omit any displays and performances at their schools that represent the Christmas holiday.

In 2011, the foundation's attorney wrote on behalf of a concerned Arab city parent, saying the school had broadcast a prayer over the PA system before games.

In 2010, the group wrote a letter to the Florence City School District, asking for a teacher to be punished for placing bibles in Christmas stockings sent home to students.

Former Cullman County Schools Superintendent Billy Coleman tells me his district made national headlines in 2013 after the Foundation asked him to stop allowing a local prayer caravan to visit county schools.

"I was actively involved in that prayer caravan as a private citizen, I might add, but I was, I really was involved, but I was also superintendent. The email basically said because of my involvement in that prayer invite that our school system had to call it off. Well the school system never sponsored it,” said Billy Coleman, retired Cullman County Schools Superintendent.

And Coleman did not back down, he tells me the Foundation's mission disregards the Christian principle on which he believes the country was founded on.

"I absolutely respect them, but I think the purpose of them is to undermine Christian faith that goes outside the home or outside of the church,” said Coleman.

So we asked WAFF 48's legal expert Mark McDaniel if the Foundation's argument would hold up in court.

"The United States Supreme Court has not outlawed prayer in school, student can pray. Groups can get together and pray in school. You cannot have a school sanctioned prayer. Athletes can pray before, during and after games, they can pray themselves they can get together in groups and pray. Coaches can pray with athletes,” said McDaniel.

McDaniel adds each of these allegations has to be dealt with on a situational basis and it's simply matter of how one interprets the First Amendment.

But when it comes to removing the nation's motto from a patrol car, the Foundation's argument likely have no merit before a court no matter how it's interpreted.

"If they want to attack that and get it removed from the dollar, and get it removed  from the Capitol, get God the word removed, then have at it, I don't think they'll be as successful at it,” said McDaniel.

While the Foundation continues to receive little support and big push back among mainstream conservatives and Christians, Gaylor says her organization remains committed to drawing the line of separation between the church and the state.

She adds the showcase of the "In God We Trust" by law enforcement is greater than what meets the eye.

"We first started getting complaints at the height of all of the criticism of police forces for the shooting of innocent African-Americans, headline after headline, and I think it's a defensive posture by many police departments and sheriff departments seeing themselves under attack, wrapping themselves in a mantle of piety so they can be above criticism,” said Gaylor.

The foundation says they believe the nation's motto "In God We Trust" needs to be challenged before the supreme court and they will work to find the right case to argue their view until then.

Locally, no public organizations, including school districts, have fought the foundation's allegations in court.

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