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Texas County Agrees to Take Crosses Off Cop Cars

Gov. Greg Abbott had supported decals, but nonprofit's suit said they were 'unconstitutional'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2016 10:21 AM CDT
Texas County Agrees to Take Crosses Off Cop Cars
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott talks to the media before a book signing on May 24, 2016, in Lubbock, Texas.   (Mark Rogers/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP)

A group known for fighting for the separation of church and state has won a victory against Brewster County, Texas, reaching a settlement that has county cops agreeing to remove decals with crosses on them from police cars, Reuters reports. In response to a suit filed this year by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Brewster officials now say they won't allow the stickers—depicting foot-high blue Latin crosses, per the Austin American-Statesman—on the vehicles, citing a recently approved county policy that bans "political, religious, commercial or personal" symbols or messages from appearing on any county property. Also per the settlement, the county will fork over $22,000 and change in legal and court fees to the FFRF. The high-profile hubbub started late in 2015 when the office for Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson requested the OK for the cross decals in the rear windows of his deputies' patrol vehicles, noting the stickers would provide "God's protection."

But the FFRF said such an action would be unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment's prohibition against government favoring one religion over another. One person who had stood behind Brewster's men and women in blue: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who wrote before the complaint was filed that "in addition to its religious significance, the cross has a long history in America and elsewhere as a symbol of service and sacrifice." Reuters didn't have a comment yet from Abbott, but the co-president of the FFRF says the whole deal "was totally avoidable. This was such an egregious and obvious violation." Also profiting from the settlement: two Brewster County atheists who had joined the lawsuit. They each received $1. (Tennessee lawmakers wanted the Bible as their state book.)

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