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Texas attorney general gives cops the OK to put ‘In God We Trust’ on police cars

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A police SUV showing the 'In God We Trust' motto (Hutchinson County Sheriff's Facebook page)

It’s fine for the Childress Police Department to sport  “In God We Trust” stickers on the back of its police cruisers, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an official opinion released Wednesday.

Paxton said the stickers are “a passive use of a motto steeped in our nation’s history” and that the police department would likely win if someone challenged the stickers in court. The ruling came as little surprise, since Paxton had already personally defended the department’s use of the slogan.

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“There is an unbroken history of official acknowledgment by all three branches of government of the role of religion in American life from at least 1789,” Paxton said in the opinion. “A law enforcement department’s decision to display the national motto on its vehicles is consistent with that history. Thus, a court is likely to conclude that a law enforcement department’s display of “In God We Trust” on its patrol vehicles is permissible under the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

Congress adopted “In God We Trust” as the national motto in 1956.

The Childress Police Department came under fire in October for displaying the stickers, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based national church-state watchdog group, pressured the department to stop using the motto. Childress Police Chief Adrian Garcia responded to its request by telling the foundation to “go fly a kite.”

Following the spat, state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, and state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster asked Paxton to consider the issue of displaying the motto.

“Attorney General Paxton confirmed what I knew to be true all along – the use of our National Motto is protected speech,” Perry said in a statement Wednesday. “I hope this opinion gives law enforcement departments deciding to display ‘In God We Trust’ the clarity they need to maintain piece (sic) of mind.”

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In October, Gov. Greg Abbott submitted a letter to Paxton offering his full support to the department if they continued “this patriotic display.”

By Madlin Mekelburg, The Texas Tribune


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