It appears that we’ve made a new friend here at The Original Motto Project.
As some of you may recall, a few weeks ago I wrote about Hemphill County Sheriff James Pearson plastering the phrase “I am the good shepherd (John 10:11).” In that piece, I made the case that Sheriff Pearson is making a theological statement that blatantly violates both the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Texas.
In that post, I acknowledged that Sheriff Pearson says he has an entirely different (non-theological) motivation for putting the scripture on county vehicles. Pearson said the purpose of the decals is “to honor our commitment to all our citizens and community as a whole. Also to continue to memorialize our fallen. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Fair enough, but as I said before, I simply don’t believe him. Why use Christian scripture to honor a commitment to all the citizens and the entire community? Surely there are more than just Christians in Hemphill County. Why use Christian scripture to honor the fallen (several officers appear to have been killed in the line of duty in Hemphill County) if not to imply that they are now in the arms of Jesus?
Our original post caught the attention of Sheriff Pearson, who was quite indignant towards us when we submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to his department (more on that in the future).
On November 8, Sheriff Pearson began commenting on one of our Facebook posts. There, he accused us of making “no effort to verify anything” in regards to what we “claim an agency is doing.” He claims that we “lack any knowledge whatsoever of the actual motivations of police putting ‘In God We Trust’ on vehicles.”
Adorable, I know.
Sheriff Pearson is saying that because I don’t believe him when he says his scriptural reference is about the community, or the citizens, or the fallen, that I am wrong about my opinion.
Sheriff Pearson, with all due respect (or at least the trivial amount I can muster), it is entirely possible that you do not understand your own motivations.
Again, it is New Testament scripture that emblazons Hemphill County vehicles. Why? Because Pearson is a Christian. There is no other reason. He may believe it is about the community or the fallen – in fact, I don’t doubt that he believes that wholeheartedly – but at the end of the day, this boils down to Sheriff Pearson’s religious beliefs. Again, I reiterate, there is a reason he picked explicitly Christian scripture!
The issue with this, the issue that eludes the Sheriff’s keen intellect, is that it sets up catch-22 by which those who do not share his religious opinions cannot disagree with the use of Christian scripture without dishonoring the community or the fallen officers. You must agree with the scriptural message in order to not dishonor the community, thereby violating your own religious conscience (say, if you were a Muslim, an Atheist, or even a Christian that disagreed with Pearson). The only way to avoid violating either your religious conscious or social conscience is to believe exactly as Sheriff Pearson does.
Sheriff Pearson, to be fair, probably does not even realize that he is underhandedly promoting his personal religious beliefs. Pearson is also probably not conscious of the fact that he is using his fallen comrades and fellow citizens’ sense of community as a way to shame people for not believing in political Christianity as he does. You don’t agree with his use of scripture? Well, then you hate our fallen officers. You think that it is inappropriate to put the New Testament on police vehicles? Well, then you aren’t a true member of this community.
Undoubtedly, Sheriff Pearson will continue to call me a liar, or misinformed, or lazy. Of course, such bullying should be expected from a man that uses the death of his friends to browbeat others into silence over his religiously motivated political decisions.
Image: Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office / Facebook
The original version of this article stated that two officers had died in the line of duty. It appears that the Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office is memorializing 6 officers who have been lost. You can view the memorial to those officers here.