Patches Stay

At a standing room only meeting of the Lenoir City council Monday, councilmen voted unanimously not to remove the patches that currently adorn police officer's uniforms. The small patches have been the latest controversy in the ongoing assault by some atheist groups on the Lenoir City school system, city government and the police department.

In January, Mayor Tony Aikens received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist organization based in Madison Wisconsin, claiming the uniform patches violated the separation clause in the constitution. However, the mayor and council disagreed with the group.

In a letter to the organization, Lenoir City attorney, James Scott, responded to the atheists concerns. See below.

Draft Letter

Ms. Stephanie Schmidt,
Freedom From Religion Foundation
P.O. Box 750
Madison, WI 53701

Re: Lenoir City, Tennessee Law Enforcement Patch

Dear Ms. Schmidt:

I am writing in response to your previous inquiries regarding the patch worn on the uniforms of the Officers for the Police Department of Lenoir City.  While I respect the right for you to express your concerns, under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, I do not believe the law enforcement patch in question violates the United States Constitution.

The patch in question merely states the word "religion", as such; it does not endorse nor discriminate against any religious faith.  It symbolizes our Police Department's attempt to protect the rights and freedoms associated with any form of religion.  It does not give preference to any religion.  Therefore, we view it commensurate with the Establishment Clause.  Our officers view the patch with natural pride and it is merely a "statement."  Thus, we view it as being protected under the First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech.  We are a community of a broad spectrum of diverse religious faiths and would never intend to offend or discriminate against any, but only to protect all religious freedoms.

I hope this response provides you with a better understanding of the City's intent and also for an appreciation of your concerns.

With kindest personal regards,......


With council's vote to send the letter to the atheists, it will now be up to them if they choose to pursue the matter any further.

It might be noted that the packed council room erupted in applauses at council's decision not to knuckle under to the atheists demands.   


Lenoir City mayor: City won't change uniform patches

By Hugh G. Willett-knoxnews.com
 
LENOIR CITY Lenoir City officials don't believe displaying the word "religion" on uniform patches worn by the city's police officers violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Mayor Tony Aikens told a standing-room-only crowd at the city council meeting Monday evening that the city has no plans to yield to the demand from a secular organization that it change the patches.

"The ball is back in their court," he said.

In a series of letters to the city over the past few weeks, the Madison, Wisc.,-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has claimed that the patches worn by officers on their uniform shirts and jackets are in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The foundation has threatened legal action if the patches are not changed.

Aikens said that after discussion with the police chief and the town attorney, he had decided to draft a response to the foundation.

A letter from Lenoir City Attorney James Scott to the foundation outlining the town's position was read to the City Council.

"The patch in question merely states the word religion, as such it does not endorse nor discriminate against any religious faith. It symbolizes our Police Department's attempt to protect the rights and freedoms associated with any sort of religion. Therefore we view it commensurate with the Establishment Clause."

The letter also explained the meaning of the patch to the officers who wear it.

"Our officers view the patch with natural pride and it is merely a 'statement.' Thus we view it as being protected under the First Amendment right of freedom of speech."

The council voted unanimously to send the letter

Councilman Eddie Simpson said he wished the issue had been challenged in the Supreme Court in years past.

"We've accepted too much in our lives letting people impose on us," he said.

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3/27/12