After a Brewster County, Texas, sheriff added decals of Christian crosses to patrol vehicles, Freedom From Religion Foundation representatives filed a lawsuit against the sheriff department and county government in March. Those cross decals were taken off the fleet's vehicles this week to settle the case, along with covering the legal costs of the atheist group, whose representatives argued the religious symbols represented a government endorsement of Christianity in violation of the First Amendment.
The Austin American-Statesman reported that Brewster County officials agreed to pay the Freedom From Religion Foundation nearly $22,000 in legal fees and $400 in other court costs.
The cross decals were affixed to a minimum of five vehicles in the lower right on the back windshields, and their display was considered offensive to some non-Christians in the area, reports Inquisitr. According to the Fox News, two other atheists who joined the group's lawsuit against the county both received $1 each "for past constitutional violations."
As Patheos reports, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is "delighted" by the quick and amicable resolution of their lawsuit against Brewster County. Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said the sheriff's vehicles were free of the offending crosses very quickly.
"I read about this stupid lawsuit over the crosses on your vehicles and I was thinking, why not offer the cross decals to anyone who wants one in the county to place on their own cars. Or at least post where you had them made for the residents to buy one," stated Dave Cam on the Brewster County Sheriff's Facebook page.
"I'd even buy one and I'm in California...just don't back down from these crazy people who obviously hate Christians."
Greg Hudson, a lawyer for Brewster County and Sheriff Ronny Dodson, said the settlement reflected a policy that was instituted in March which banned political, religious, commercial and personal symbols from county vehicles. The ban was approved three weeks after the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed its lawsuit.
"It was just a business decision. There was no reason to fight anything," Hudson said. "I think the county's position is, let's save this fight for another day; we've taken care of this issue internally."
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was asked to issue an opinion on the court case, but was blocked when the group filed a lawsuit in March, reports Fox News.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot supported Brewster County officials in the lawsuit and released a statement saying the crosses do not favor one type of religion. "The Brewster County deputies' crosses neither establish a religion nor threaten any person's ability to worship God, or decline to worship God, in his own way, " he said. "The symbol of the cross appropriately conveys the solemn respect all Texans should have for the courage and sacrifice of our peace officers."