By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
January 6, 2022
A North Carolina sheriff facing legal threats from atheists over a wall display of Philippians 4:13 is refusing to remove the Scripture and says he will not waver from his faith.
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” — one of Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene’s favorite Bible verses — serves as motivation for him and his staff, he wrote in a Dec. 21 social media post.
“Companies spend thousands of dollars on motivational classes, to come up with motivational slogans,” Greene added. “My motivation comes from the greatest motivational speaker of all times, Jesus Christ.”
Greene was responding to news reports about the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s accusations that the verse violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the organization’s demands that it be removed.
In a Dec. 6 letter to Greene, FFRF staff attorney Christopher Line called the verse an “exclusionary display,” and claimed that it “alienates the 24% of Americans who are non-religious.” He also chided Greene for promoting Christianity on his office’s Facebook page.
It was on that page that Greene called the attack a “political ploy” and explained his reasoning for displaying the verse.
“Here at the Sheriff’s Office, we work hard in everything that we do. Before we execute a search warrant, or any service that puts our people in immediate harm’s way, we ALWAYS go to the Lord with a group prayer,” Greene wrote. “I was raised in church. I have been in law enforcement for over thirty years. My training taught me to value God, family, and my country.”
He said the verse was placed on the wall after he took office and that it was paid for with private funds.
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said he does not believe the verse violates the First Amendment.
“I am not an attorney, but it is my understanding the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that whenever something religious is privately sponsored in a public place, it is constitutional. I believe the Court’s ruling in Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board v. Pinette says it quite succinctly:
‘It will be a sad day when this Court casts piety in with pornography, and finds the First Amendment more hospitable to private expletives,…than to private prayers. This would be merely bizarre were religious speech simply as protected by the Constitution as other forms of private speech, but it is outright perverse when one considers that private religious expression receives preferential treatment under the Free Exercise Clause. It is no answer to say that the Establishment Clause tempers religious speech. By its terms that Clause applies only to the words and acts of government. It was never meant, and has never been read by this Court, to serve as an impediment to purely private religious speech connected to the State only through its occurrence in a public forum.’”
Creech said the CAL applauds the sheriff for his plain and forthright personal testimony of faith in Jesus Christ.
“The League believes he is firmly in the right on the Bible verse posted on the wall in the sheriff’s office,” Creech added. “May God forgive the FFRF for their misguided plan to make our culture atheistic. I know of no higher offense against patriotism.”
Greene said in his post that he had received many phone calls and messages of support regarding the Bible verse display, including calls from five county commissioners and Rep. Brenden Jones, who represents Columbus and Robeson counties in the N.C. House.