A Wisconsin-based secularist group has sent a letter to a sheriff's office in Texas to complain about the inclusion of a Bible verse in a memo to officers.
Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree had released a memo last week following the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida directing officers to take immediate action in the event of an active shooter situation.
According to Christian News Network, the memo included the verse Romans 13:4 which states, "For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) said that it had been alerted by a local resident to the Murphree's use of the verse on the memo. The group asserted that the sheriff is not allowed under the Constitution to cite Scripture in his official correspondence because it "conveys government preference for religion over non-religion."
The group further contended that the Bible contradicts the Constitution, claiming that the latter document declares that governments are ordained by men and not God.
"The Constitution declares that governments are instituted by the people, not a god: 'We the People of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.' Romans 13:1 says precisely the opposite, 'the powers that be are ordained of God.' The two documents are opposed. You may have taken your oath on the Bible, but that oath was a promise to uphold the Constitution," Andrew Seidel, the group's director of Strategic Response, wrote.
Murphree's memo was released amid reports that the deputies of Broward County had remained outside and had taken cover behind their vehicles with pistols drawn as the mass shooting was taking place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14.
After releasing it to his staff, Murphree later posted it on social media, where it has been shared more than 14,000 times on Facebook and re-tweeted on Twitter more than 1,200 times.
The FFRF has urged Murphree to remove the Bible verse from the memo and has requested that the social media post be removed and reposted without the quotation.
This was not the first time that the FFRF had taken issue with Romans 13:4. In July 2016, the group sent a complaint letter to the police chief of Harper, Kansas, demanding the removal of a decal that read "Romans 13:4" on the upper right-hand corner of a municipality-owned patrol truck.
The secularist group contended that having a police vehicle endorse Christianity gives the impression that those who do not identify as Christians are "outsiders" or are not "full members" of the political community.
In response to the FFRF's demand, Harper police chief Doug Murphy and Mayor Scott Blubaugh sent a letter to the organization explaining that the decal has been removed.