CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
BURNET — A move to allow deputies to affix “In God We Trust” decals on their patrol units has tipped off a firestorm on social media and prompted the Burnet County sheriff to recommit his support for the display of faith by his staff.
“Some other departments around the country were doing it. It sounded like a good idea for me to offer the opportunity to (the deputies),” Burnet County Sheriff W.T. Smith said. “We have a number of people in the department who are practicing Christians.
“It wasn’t mandatory,” he said. “If they chose to do it, they could do it.”
The decals were donated to the department by an Austin-based group, he said.
Posting a photo of one of the vehicles with the decal on the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page sparked a debate among commenters.
The vast majority of commenters appeared to support the idea; however, a number of them expressed staunch opposition.
Scott McKellar, who expressed his opposition, stated: “Slogans on police cars are not religious expression on the part of the officers, but religious expression by the government. They are government speech, and will be (correctly) perceived as such.”
Commenter Robert Barrow stated: “These officers displaying this are not ashamed of their faith and many are personal friends, just like your (sic) not ashamed to complain (about) it and try to validate your point about your belief on a government FB page.”
Smith said that despite the opposition, he reaffirmed to his staff his support for the decals.
“I’m not going to interfere in an individual’s right to express their faith,” Smith said. “I don’t understand any push back on that. It’s a positive thing as far as I’m concerned.”
As a number of commenters debated the issue on the page, one chose to add humor to the discourse.
Glory Betexan wrote: “It’s acceptable, but I’d have preferred ‘remember the Alamo.’”