KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A biblical passage that has long been displayed at a Tennessee city's police headquarters will be moved following a complaint from an organization that advocates for the separation of church and state.
The East Tennessee chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint in February over the Knoxville Police Department's plaque, which is located on a wall in a non-public area, news outlets reported.
Mounted near an employee deli, the plaque quotes Romans 8:31, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us then who can be against us?"
At a Wednesday news conference, Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said the plaque would be moved to a new Hall of Inspiration that the department will create. It will be displayed alongside other inspirational quotes, religious verses and proverbs.
With the plaque, the police department has been promoting Christianity over other religions, argued FFRF chapter president Aleta Ledendecker.
"Please see that the verse is removed so that all who enter your police station may feel equally treated," Ledendecker wrote in her February letter to the city's police chief.
The city could have defended the plaque in court against the group's claim that it violates the U.S. Constitution's principle of the separation of church and state, Knoxville City Law Director Charles Swanson said. But he said he agreed with Mayor Madeline Rogero's position not to spend taxpayer money to fund that defense.
"We do not govern according to the dictates of our faiths," Rogero said at the news conference. "We govern first and foremost under the authority of the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee."
This story has been corrected to show that the Freedom From Religion Foundation chapter president's last name is Ledendecker, not Ledenbetter.