Allowing symbols on county vehicles is not a good thing

October 09, 2003

We're not outraged or "deeply disturbed" about the presence of the Christian symbol of a fish on a Boyle County Sheriff's Department cruiser, but we are convinced it's not a good idea.

We're concerned about allowing government employees to place symbols of their religious faith or other beliefs on government vehicles for several reasons:

First, the vehicles are not the property of the government employees and are not for their personal use. Therefore, they shouldn't post their personal opinions on them.

Secondly, allowing one employee to put a symbol of his personal beliefs on his cruiser could set a precedent that might put the local county government in a difficult situation. Clearly, judging from the letters we've received, most people do not find the fish, or ichthus, offensive. In fact, they seem to be pleased that it's there because they share the same beliefs. Other letter writers say they wouldn't mind seeing symbols of other religions - Judaism or Islam, for instance - on county cars.


But what if a county employee has personal beliefs that are outside the mainstream. What if he put a swastika - the symbol of the Nazis - are on a county vehicle? Or what if he were a devil-worshipper and chose to put a symbol of those beliefs on his car?

Certainly, that would put county officials in a difficult situation, having already given one employee the OK to put a symbol of his personal belief on a county vehicle.

Finally, this is just the kind of issue that could attract the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union and a lawsuit against local government. A lot of people use the phrase "separation of church and state" and argue that putting a Christian symbol on a government is in violation of that principle. While others argue that there's nothing in the U.S. Constitution requiring such a separation.

We're not sure how a judge would rule on the issue. All we know is that the last thing Boyle County taxpayers need is another lawsuit to pay for.

For these reasons, it's our belief that local governments - both the county and the city - ought to have a policy against government employees posting their opinions or beliefs on government vehicles.


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