News of inmates' baptisms recently went viral-Now, an atheist group says that coercion & promoting Christianity must end

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On December 29, 2022, a County Sheriff’s Department shared on social media numerous photos celebrating nearly 40 male and female inmates’ Baptization in a County Detention Center. The Sheriff’s post subsequently went viral, drawing varied amounts of praise and criticism from citizens across the Nation. Now, a non-profit atheist organization asserts that the Sheriff’s Department’s recent action of “promoting Christianity and coercing prisoners into participating in religious exercises” is unconstitutional. [i]

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) says its purpose is “to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.” The non-profit was incorporated in 1978 and claims to be the largest freethought association comprised of “atheists, agnostics, and skeptics of any pedigree.” [ii]
Photo byDCDC

On January 13, 2023, the FFRF transmitted a letter via e-mail and U.S. mail alleging that the County Sheriff’s Department had committed multiple constitutional violations. The FFRF alleges a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by way of government sponsorship of religious messages & failure to maintain neutrality between religion and religion and between religion and nonreligion. [iii]

The FFRF supports its claim with its statement that,

“The promotion of Christianity by [the] Department sends a message that excludes 37 percent of Americans who are nonchristian, including the nearly one in three Americans who identify as nonreligious. The Department’s public support of religion, and specifically Christianity, needlessly alienates non-Christian and nonreligious citizens.” As a result, the FFRF requests that the Sheriff’s Department “refrain from promoting religion on social media and cease its coordination of religious programs and events.” [iv]

Read the complete letter from the FFRF to the County Sheriff's Department below.

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[i] County Sheriff Department, What a great way to celebrate Christmas and a New Year! (Dec. 29, 2022)

[ii] Freedom From Religion Foundation, About the Freedom From Religion Foundation (2023)

[iii] Staff Attorney Christopher Line, FFRF, Multiple constitutional violations (Jan. 13, 2023)

[iv] Id.

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