SECULAR: ‘In God we Trust’ not for police cars
If you notice on some of the police cars in Lafayette these days, there’s a relatively new decoration on the back bumper: “In God We Trust.” Putting this phrase on police cars is becoming popular around the country, especially in more conservative parts.
I understand the desire to include the phrase. Police officers tend to skew conservative, which is much more religious, and they often like to flaunt that religiosity. Also, being a cop is difficult work, and it can be quite dangerous (thankfully, according to the FBI, 2015 was one of the safest years for police, and hopefully that trend continues). I’m sure many of them turn to religion in their personal lives to feel safe, and I’m hesitant to take away from that feeling.
But the police aren’t supposed to serve just the Christians in town — they protect everyone. Atheists are citizens, too, and we pay our taxes to fund our police department. I’d like to think that the phrase is an empty slogan put there as a boast, but I do wonder: Would the police be less likely to help me since I’m an open non-believer?
Also, consider the controversy over police tactics. In the past few years, we’ve seen video footage of police shooting people in the back, tasing people to death, bodyslamming handcuffed women, and countless other assaults. The Chicago Police Department even ran its own secret prison. Usually they receive minimal discipline for their attacks.
This happens at home, too. The New Iberia Sheriff’s Office was discovered to take uncooperative prisoners to the chapel for beatings. They chose the chapel because it did not have security cameras. Consider the irony, though: They wanted to avoid being seen, so they beat the prisoner in a building dedicated to an all-knowing, all-seeing god.
These people who ride around boasting of their godliness are committing these horrible acts emblazoned with their god’s name. If a Christian’s life is supposed to provide a living witness to Jesus, what message are they sending to non-Christians about their god?
I know there are good Christians out there, and I know there are good police officers. It wouldn’t be fair to condemn the entirety of both groups based on these actions. But they need to be the ones leading the charge against these abusers. Otherwise, they are letting the abusers define their beliefs in the public’s eye.
Perhaps for a compromise, more police departments could follow the example of the Austin, Arkansas police and put “We the People” on their bumpers. It’s the first words in our Constitution, a defining statement of what it means to be a democracy, and more inclusive that committing to any one religion. Officers should feel free to be personally religious if that helps them. I have no problem with them wearing a St. Christopher medal or keeping prayer cards in their wallets. But on their official, taxpayer-funded vehicles, they need to signal they serve and protect everyone. Hence, “we the people.”