Boyle deputy will replace 'Jesus fish'

October 15, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

Deputy Marty Elliott won't have a Jesus fish on his Boyle County sheriff's cruiser, but he may have a decal that represents his new position as chaplain.

Boyle Fiscal Court came to the agreement Tuesday.

Elliott said he has always counseled people and that it isn't as much about religion as one might think.

"When you go to comfort someone, it doesn't matter what faith you are; comfort is comfort" he said. "When tragedies occur, the furthest thing from my mind is what religion that person is - I'm there to be a compassionate human."

A controversy about the Jesus symbol on his police cruiser began with a letter written by Lori Stipe. In an e-mail interview today, she said that it is her belief that everyone should be allowed to display symbols of faith, but not on pieces of public property, such as police cruisers.

A person's beliefs, religious or otherwise, are "best shown through the manner in which you treat humanity," she wrote. "Many faiths are honored every day by the manner in which we are provided for by these public servants such as law enforcement, firefighters, medical professionals, teachers and many others."


Residents both for and against the symbol wrote letters to the editor for a week expressing their views.

Elliott said that he was humbled by the support he had received from the Christian community. The Jesus fish had been on his cruiser for three years without comment. He said he originally put it there so that residents would know that his approach to law enforcement is a little different.

"Now if someone needs to go to jail, I'll arrest them, but maybe with just a little bit more compassion," he said.

Judge-Executive Tony Wilder said he was "totally comfortable" with having a chaplain, as many law enforcement departments around the country have them.

Elliott will choose chaplain decal

Elliott will choose a chaplain decal and bring it back before Fiscal Court members for approval to put on the back of his cruiser. Chaplains in other law enforcement departments also have had pins on their lapels.

Elliott has been the unofficial chaplain for the sheriff's department for years.

He graduated with a degree in counseling from Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville and is a deacon elder at Cornerstone Assembly Church of God in Danville.

Many of his co-workers are Christian, and Elliott said they come to him for prayer. When he is out on the streets, he said he prays for people all the time without them knowing he is a minister.

When families visit the scene of a fatal crash, he tries to comfort them. At injury accidents, some have told him that they believe guardian angels were in the car.

In homes where he answers domestic violence calls, he tries to talk to couples, who ask, about finding a church. He said that inmates, who have lost their families and homes to drugs, often ask to talk to him. "This place (Earth) is not all roses, and at sometime we are all going to call out to God," he said.

Elliott said some have asked how they can become saved. Although he believes some are sincere, he said that he is wary of jailhouse religion, those that believe while they are in jail but forget when they are freed.

"I've got to see the fruit," he said, adding that he has seen some people turn their lives around.

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