Sheriff’s office accused of religious bias

The Freedom From Religion Foundation takes issue with the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 6:19 PM EDT
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TAZEWELL, Va. (WVVA) - The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office is under fire from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Sheriff Brian Hieatt recently received a letter form the organization claiming that the Sheriff’s Office violated the separation of church and state by attending several Christian events and posting about them on the Agency’s Facebook page. The Foundation says that this may alienate nonreligious people and discourage them from contacting the police for help.

Christopher Line, Staff Attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and writer of the letter says,

“They were showing all of those pictures of them in church with the Christian flag in the background. Promoting the national day of prayer, pushing this Christianity. That is not surprising that a local community think that I’m not going to be treated fairly because I’m not a Christian.”

Sheriff Brian Hieatt denies any sort of religious bias and says that it is important for the police to be active in the community, especially in events that they were invited to and says that it is unrealistic that anyone offended by the pictures would feel like they couldn’t contact the police in an emergency.

“...I don’t think that’s true. If someone’s breaking into your house and you feel your life’s in danger, I don’t think you’re going to say I saw on Facebook they attended a special church dinner, I’m not going to call 911 for help. That’s not going to factor in when someone needs help and they call us.”

Hieatt also mentioned that this was not the first time the Freedom from Religion Foundation had taken issue with the Tazewell Sheriff’s Office. The Foundation had previously taken issue with the ‘In God We Trust’ stickers on the Office’s cars. However, the Sheriff’s Office stood their ground on this issue, and left the stickers on.

Hieatt gave no indication that this issue would be any different.