UPDATE| Freedom From Religion Foundation calls decals "inappropriate"

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Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 News 12 at 11 O'Clock

BURKE COUNTY, GA (WRDW)-- A motto that is being brought to focus in a different light.

"I mean it's senseless. I mean to take a motto that's been around forever and to turn it into a big issue is just, I mean it's senseless," said Dedric Smith, Chief Investigator at the Burke County Sheriff's Office.

A small decal on the back of some Burke County patrol cars went unnoticed until the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Sheriff Greg Coursey urging him to remove the decal.

"Many citizens are offended and imagine if you were in a rural community and you had an Atheist bumper sticker on your car and you're pulled over by a sheriff who's got an "In God We Trust" decal on his car. It's unseeingly, it's just inappropriate," said Freedom From Religion Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

But Smith chose to put the decal on his car and says it does not affect his work.

"The fact that we believe in Jesus Christ and others don't, it's not going to make me treat them any different," said Smith, "We're still going to do the job that we do."

Smith wanted the decal on his car because it's what he believes and where his trust falls.

"We have a tough job. I mean each and every day we come out here, we never know what that day may bring," said Smith, "We may not return home to our families that night. I mean in the world that you live in today, you have to believe in something."

Sheriff Coursey has already told News 12 he will not remove the decals, but Gaylor says they are still waiting o the right person to complain before they can move forward with any legal action.

"We are like I said we're trying to educate and persuade and we are waiting for the right set of circumstances to sue," said Gaylor.

Smith says despite the decal, a person's religious views do not play any role in how he enforces the law.

"We don't know, the people that we encounter we don't know what their religious beliefs are and even if they told me that they don't believe in God that's not the job I'm there to do," said Smith.

Sheriff Coursey tells us he has received numerous calls giving either support or donations.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is also looking at other law enforcement agencies around the south.


Monday, September 21st, 2015 News 12 at 11 O'Clock

BURKE COUNTY, GA (WRDW)-- "In God We Trust", the motto that Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey chooses to put on the back of his patrol car.

"And I thought it was time that we let people know what we believe and who we trust. We have to put our trust in God to do our work," said Coursey.

But the small decal is becoming the center of some local concerns.

"They said they had one person in Burke County that had objected and I don't know who that is, they hadn't been in my office and told me they objected to it," said Coursey.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a cease and desist letter asking the Sheriff to take the motto off the back of patrol cars this past Friday.

"I want the people to know that we do trust in God and I think it makes them feel more comfortable that they do have a sheriff and law enforcement officers in this county that do put their trust in God," said Coursey.

Sheriff Coursey says his attorney, Freddie Sanders, will respond to the letter.

"Their legal grounds would be that it would be unconstitutional," said Sanders.

But Sanders says they are wrong.

"The motto is what they call "In God We Trust" is not endorsing or necessarily talking about a religion," said Sanders.

The decal does not cost tax payers a dime. It is paid for by a combination of funds from deputies donations, community donations and money from the Sheriff's own pocket. A price he's happy to pay to display a motto he believes in.

"First a born again Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, first and then I'm sheriff after that," said Coursey, "I do look to God and I put my trust in him everyday to do this job."

But he says it is going to take more than a threatening letter to change his views or his bumpers. When I asked if he would consider taking it off, "I don't think so, I don't think so. No I'm not ashamed of the Gospel," said Coursey.

Sanders says he will respond to the letter and wait to see if there is legal recourse from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.