That Shelby County and the immediate area are a bastion of conservative orthodoxy is not in question. It is. One would only have to follow voting patterns (solidly right-wing Republicans) to determine that.
Whether that thinking can be questioned is another matter entirely.
And I believe the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office has crossed over the line. Sheriff’s vehicles have “In God We Trust” on them.
The Constitution of the United States prohibits the establishment of any state religion.
Mind you, a Sheriff’s Office is an entity of American civil government. Among other things, employees of that department can deprive a person of his or her freedom just by doing its duty.
In God We Trust has no business being on those vehicles. Does that bumper sticker, for instance, imply that atheists need not apply for employment?
Don’t take my word alone, of course.
James Madison, the man who composed the lion’s share of the Constitution, has this to say on the subject: “If religion be not within cognizance of civil government, how can its legal establishment be said to be necessary to civil government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of civil authority; in many instances they have seen the upholding of the thrones of political tyranny; in no instances have they been seen the guardians of the liberty of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it (liberty), needs them not.”
I wanted to speak with Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart, but when I went to the local office, he was unavailable. An official with the department did speak with me. Before I had said much of anything, this man commented, “We’re not taking it (In God We Trust) off.” The Sheriff’s representative was cordial overall and heard me out. I appreciate that.
I just wanted to them to know their opinion wasn’t unanimous. You can bet there will be no appreciable backlash from Shelby County residents to the Sheriff’s action simply because the great majority of them would be in agreement.
Conservatives, in particular, are very adept at waiving around their Constitutions, until it comes to and issue like this, that is.
The writer is a former Sidney Daily News sports editor (1973-75), was a Logan County Schools truant officer (1979-2005) and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force in the Vietnam era (1965-69).