An atheist organization is declaring victory after a Wisconsin police station took down a prayer placard that included an invocation asking God to help keep cops safe — signage that the organization said violated the separation of church and state.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter on Jan. 19 to Onalaska Police Department Chief of Police Jeffrey Trotnic, charging that the large display, which was titled, “A Police Officer’s Prayer,” was unconstitutional.
“Lord, I ask you to be with me in a very special way as I face the challenges that I must face each day,” text of the placard read, in part. “Please give to me compassion for the innocent I see. Help me to protect and serve those who depend on me.”
The prayer message also went on to ask for both courage and protection. But while the atheist group said these sentiments are certainly noble, the organization charged that “it is unconstitutional for the (police department) to endorse this religious viewpoint.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation said in its letter to Trotnic that a concerned resident had reached out to complain over the religious message, claiming that the police station “must remove” the sign.
And in an April 13 response letter, Trotnic notified the atheist group that the prayer has now been removed from inside the police department’s offices in Onalaska, Wisconsin. Trotnic simply wrote, “The item in question has been removed.”
And that’s exactly the move the Freedom From Religion Foundation was hoping to see unfold, with the organization’s co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, releasing a statement praising the police chief’s decision.
“We’ll take that as a victory for the Constitution,” she said. “Nonbelievers in Onalaska will now feel fully included, as they should be in our secular state.”
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