North Carolina sheriff who garnered national attention for refusing to remove Bible verse from a wall in his office cited need for “more of Jesus” as the reason for his decision not to comply to the demands of a leading atheist legal organization to take it. down.
Jody Greene, the sheriff of Columbus County, North Carolina, responded to concerns from the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation about Philippians 4:13 bible verse posted on a wall in the office of the sheriff 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 to do everything through Christ who strengthens me ”.
Greene rebuffed the claim that the posting constituted “government sponsorship of religious messages.”
The sheriff added, “The Bible verse was placed on the wall after I took office. It was paid for with private funds, not with county funding. The verse is one of my favorite Bible verses, and it felt appropriate for all the adversity I had to endure.
After describing the scriptures as being “very motivating for me and my staff,” Greene claimed that there was a political motive behind the sudden outcry over his presence at the sheriff’s office: “I took many photos with this bible verse backdrop with not a single problem, but now that we enter an election year, it is a problem. What nonsense !
“It’s a political ploy. Some want someone they can control. Businesses spend thousands of dollars on motivational training, 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 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 / Unbeliever of the Week” with a photo of the “shameless free-thinker” in a “silhouette of the devil and flames”. 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 renounce my Christian position and 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 they are Christians or not,” she said. “An overtly Christian message to 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 the actions taken by the sheriff’s office” to rectify the complainant’s concerns.
Line has listed several US Supreme Court cases which have found that “the First Amendment imposes 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 attempt to support his claim that posting 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 lawyer for the FFRF began the letter by noting that “we are still awaiting a response to our letter of January 26, 2021 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 Savior. 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 post on its Facebook page this year.
In his response to FFRF, Greene explained how Christianity plays a role in the day-to-day operations of the Sheriff’s Office as well as in his own life: “Before executing a search warrant, or any service that puts our people in danger, we ALWAYS come to the Lord with group prayer. ALWAYS! I was brought up in the church. I have been in the police force for over thirty years. My training taught me to value God, family and my country.
North Carolina resident Franklin Graham, CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and son of legendary televangelist Billy Graham, encouraged his supporters to “pray for Sheriff Greene and his team” in a Facebook post on 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]