The Freedom From Religion Foundation recently sent a letter of complaint to the Ashe County Sheriff's Department in North Carolina, calling on the department to make changes to a prayer event featuring Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz.
According to The Christian Post, the FFRF sent the letter on the behalf of a citizen, expressing concern that allowing Lotz to host the prayer event on sheriff department property violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel argued that the department’s decision to allow this religious event can be seen as an inappropriate endorsement of religion. Seidel also expressed concerns that Sheriff Terry Buchanan and other department employees would attend the event in their official capacity.
"[W]e are concerned that ACSO deputies and perhaps Sheriff Buchanan will be appearing at the event, on government property, in their official uniforms, and may even speak using the titles that come with their office," Seidel wrote. "This would indeed exacerbate the appearance that the ACSO endorses Christianity, which is already imperiled given the history of the event."
The sheriff’s department agreed to move the event to the department’s parking lot and assured the FFRF that sheriff department employees may attend the event as private citizens of their own freewill, or may be present to maintain security, but will not endorse the event as public servants.
"The sheriff's office parking lot is open to any group which may wish to hold a vigil or meeting at reasonable times and upon scheduling such event,. Mr. Buchanan has received several requests from individuals regarding this policy, and he has indicated to them he would provide the space to them upon the same terms and conditions which is provided to Ms. Lotz,” assured Stacy Eggers IV, an attorney representing Sheriff Buchanan.
"This space is available to any group, regardless of political, religious, secular, or other belief," Eggers added.
This compromise seemed to appease the FFRF, whose co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement, "The Ashe County Sheriff's Office did the right thing by avoiding involving itself in a Christian prayer event and estranging non-Christian community members. The Ashe County officers should focus on their secular duties citizens trust them with."
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Publication date: June 28, 2017