A religious message posted in a North Carolina police officer’s car has sparked a controversy, drawing the attention of media and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
In November, when a Greensboro man was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint and asked to wait in the officer’s patrol car, he noticed a sign displayed between the front and back seats reading “Jesus is your savior.”
M. Reza Salami later complained to the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office regarding the religious message. His complaint did not impress Sheriff BJ Barnes who maintained to the Greensboro News & Record that the police officer had a right to express his beliefs in the county car. If Salami was offended, Barnes added, he should “choose to ignore” the sign.
Salami contacted Americans United regarding the situation.
Senior Litigation Counsel Alex Luchenitser told the newspaper that Americans United would send the sheriff’s office a letter regarding the religious message’s serious constitutional concerns.
“A police officer is allowed to keep religious materials in his own personal space, if he’s got personal space where he doesn’t interact with the public,” Luchenitser said.
Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky agreed, telling the newspaper, “The officer can put it on his front lawn … but not in a police car that’s used for county business.”