Sometimes I live in the past. This is one of those times.
Yes, I noted with interest this morning that the Right-Sheriff Ed Brown of my former home in Onslow County is back in the news. This time the sheriff who finds dead bodies with a divining rod, pokes dead bodies with a stick, left his gun in a Food Lion bathroom and once horded new vehicles for his department on private property for months before putting them on the street is in the sights of a Wisconsin watchdog group that focuses on the separation of church and state. It’s called the Freedom from Religion Foundation and purports to have 17,000 members. My hunch is very few vote in Onslow County.
Anyway, this isn’t particuarly new territory for Brown, who has been sheriff in that county since 1990. To see a longer post about the sheriff with links to stories about his activities click here. Church and state collide in his office about every minute of the day. He once compared himself to Jesus when he was under investigation for the body-poking incident and a departmental flow chart he once submitted with a county budget request begins with God at the top. God then has a direct line to the sheriff. The sheriff is then able to spread the word of the almighty to his sheriff’s office subordinates. Note that God bypasses the public on this chart to the sheriff.
I don’t make this stuff up.
Anyway, what got the Wisconsin group fired up was an ad placed in my former newspaper, the Jacksonville Daily News. The sheriff bought the ad and paid for it himself. This isn’t unusual in the slightest. After a couple of car dealers, Sheriff Brown is perhaps the newspaper’s largest advertiser. Usually he places a full or half-page one to explain some action he has taken — or not taken. Sometimes he wants to tell more of his side of the story regarding something in the newspaper. In October, it was about living a clean and moral life in the world according to God and the sheriff. The ad carried the sheriff’s logo.
The Freedom from Religion folks want to the Onslow County commissioners to do something about it.
My question is this: What would they propose doing?
The sheriff in all North Carolina counties doesn’t work for the county commissioners, the job is directly accountable to voters. In Onslow County, folks have stated again and again that for whatever reason they like Ed Brown and they like him a lot. Every four years he wins by humongous margins. Personally, I don’t get it. Then again, I don’t have to. Do I think he’s a good sheriff? No. But it has nothing to do with his religious beliefs. I think so because he makes rape victims take lie detector tests, seems to run sloppy investigations, has a revolving door in terms of personnel, and there’s that whole lost gun and poking a body with a stick thing.
The ad in question doesn’t mention Christianity. It does describe a path to the almighty and guidelines for living well. It’s probably not the sheriff’s job to do it, but there’s very little to tell him he can’t place such an ad. Eliminating the official logo would perhaps be a good idea but no one’s made Ed Brown do much of anything since 1990. I don’t see it happening now.
And especially not from a group of outsiders from the midwest.