American Atheists win lawsuit against Tennessee police chief

American Atheists win lawsuit against Tennessee police chief August 30, 2016

Eric Watson, above, could not resist using the Bradley County police Facebook page to bang on about his Christian beliefs, much to the annoyance of those who did not want their noses rubbed in his religious drivel.
So in stepped American Atheists. After being alerted to Watson’s preaching by an anonymous local resident, the New Jersey-based organisation launched a lawsuit against the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
According to this report, the lawsuit claimed that police had breached the US Constitution, and it was announced this week that Bradley County will pay out $41,000 and that Watson will undertake not to post any more religious messages on the police’s new Facebook page.
Watson will, however, be allowed to maintain his own page, where he can post his personal views and opinions.
Earlier this year, Watson said in an interview:

When I campaigned for the office of sheriff, and before that, the office of state representative, I never made any effort to hide or deny my strong, personal Christian faith.

Said Amanda Knief, American Atheists’ National Legal and Public Policy Director.

This settlement is a clear win for the plaintiffs, whose First Amendment rights to free speech and to be free of government establishment of religion were infringed upon. We are pleased the sheriff has agreed to do the right thing by no longer using this official government social media account to promote religion.

She added:

What is unfortunate, is that it took a lawsuit and more than $40,000 in taxpayer money for the county and sheriff to put this common sense policy in place.

The controversy erupted earlier this year when Mr Watson posted a series of Easter messages on the department’s social media page in which he quoted the Bible.
He said in one message:

Today is one of the most historic days; not only did Jesus die on the cross for our sins, but he rose on this day. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice, and offered himself for our sins. This day represents the best gift any of us could receive, which is ‘Eternal Life’ with our Heavenly Father.

At the time, Knief asked Watson to:

Refrain from making statements promoting Christianity in his capacity as sheriff.

She claimed that the 2010 US Census data showed at least 40 per cent of people in the county were non-religious.
In one of his recent posts on his own Facebook page, which dates from July 21, Watson makes clear his support for Republican Donald Trump.

Trump is doing great. I love the law and order plan and the support for our law enforcement officers. I’ve never heard a Presidential Candidate mention so many positive things about Law Enforcement like I have tonight.

As part of the settlement, the county will pay $15,000 in damages to American Atheists and the local plaintiff. They will also pay $26,000 in lawyers fees. The money will come from the authority’s insurance company and not Mr Watson’s own pocket.
Neither the county nor Watson has admitted any wrongdoing.
The anonymous resident who had been part of the lawsuit said:

I have always said that Constitutional rights are worth fighting for, and I am proud that when tested, I stood by that principle. It was not easy to stand up to the county sheriff and some people in my community who disagreed with me.

Watson, of course, had “hundreds” of supporters.

"//It would make an excellent new headquarters for the Kentucky Equality Federation.//Only once it has ..."

‘Pain the ass’ secular group scuppers ..."
"That's what I thought. I've often quoted the Bible myself in response to some of ..."

‘Demonic’ show in a cathedral signals ..."
"As far as I know, DingoJack is not an right-wing Christian.If I had to guess, ..."

‘Demonic’ show in a cathedral signals ..."
"He murdered the same Christians he supposedly championed, Which is well within line for the ..."

‘Jesus chicken’ company denies homophobia but ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Broga

    Twat. Conforms to type.

  • L.Long

    A xtian ahole forcing BS onto others that can’t complain or get worse fines!!! He is VERY lucky to be in a xtian controlled state, as that is flat out abuse of power! “he never hid his xtian-ness” who the hell cares, stop forcing your BS up other peoples asses!! You can always tell a trump supporter.

  • Laura Roberts

    American sheriffs — cowards like this one — love to use their offices as bully pulpits, emphasis on the word “bully”. When I live in an area with such vocal, bigoted law enforcement officials, I really do wonder whether I’ll get fair treatment should anything happen to me.

  • Rob Andrews

    @Laura Roberts:
    …”Jesus died on the cross for OUR sins, but he rose on this day. JESUS PAID the ultimate sacrifice, and offered himself for our sins”.
    I also wory about being locked up by somebody who likes vicarious punishment. Sombody ELSE died for MY sins This is very close to sadism. It’s this kind of thinking that scares me about Xtians. And they don’t recognize it when I explain it to them.

  • Vanity Unfair

    I never like advocating new laws; there are too many already. However…
    How about a law that anybody who wants to be elected to a public office or promoted to a position of authority in the civil service has to pass an exam in public law.
    People who make, administer or uphold the law really should know what it is about.
    This is not only for the USA. There are those this side of the pond who would benefit.
    It could also be used to get the UK out of trouble with the ECHR on prisoners’ rights to vote. Pass the exam, prove you understand the system and you are enfranchised for the last six months of your sentence. We’ll have to pay for teachers but that apart it’s all to the good.

  • Vanity Unfair

    Assuming that the people mentioned actually existed, that the events variously described actually happened and that the philosophies extracted are actually sound….
    Jesus did not die for our sins. He was on the cross for about three hours and crucifixion as a process usually took days to kill. He was most probably alive when taken down.
    Jesus did not die for our sins. From entombment to resurrection the time taken was about a day and a half. At the most he was temporarily inconvenienced for our sins.
    Jesus did not die for our sins. Substitutionary atonement is a distasteful hypothesis as it does not require a malefactor to make amends personally. Keep on being wicked; somebody else will pick up the bill. It’s very useful for those in power.

  • Robster

    Apparently-…”Jesus died on the cross for OUR sins, but he rose on this day. JESUS PAID the ultimate sacrifice, and offered himself for our sins”. Well no, the myth has it that the dead magic jew popped back to life, so if anything his dismal attempt at some sort of sacrifice was, like his (alleged) father, a complete failure.

  • sailor1031

    @LLong: he may live in a “xtian” state but you can bet your last dollar if he lived in a muslim state he’d be just as bigoted, pro-law-enforcement and a bully as he is now. Tennessee or KSA makes no difference; his kind are everywhere doing the dirty work of the elites for them.

  • Jay

    Good job AA. We need more lawsuits like this. Not only does it correct a wrong, but also acts as advertisement and education for the public. Please give to AA and other related groups that pursue these opportunities.