Office of the Governor - Greg Abbott

Governor Abbott Sends Brief To Attorney General Paxton In Support Of Displaying Cross On Patrol Vehicles

Friday, February 05, 2016  •  Austin, Texas  •  Press Release
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Governor Greg Abbott has sent a brief to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton supporting Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson’s decision to allow his officer’s patrol vehicles to display a cross with a thin blue line on patrol vehicles.

“Even under the U.S. Supreme Court’s expansive interpretation of the Establishment Clause’s limited and unambiguous text, the Court has never held that public officials are barred from acknowledging our religious heritage,” writes Governor Abbott in the brief. “To the contrary, the U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized the demographic and historical reality that Americans ‘are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.’”

See below for excerpts from Governor Abbott’s brief to Attorney General Paxton:

As General Paxton has previously noted, the Supreme Court has instructed that historical practices and understanding must be taken into account when deciding cases involving public displays. “As Attorney General Paxton explained in AG Opinion No. KP-0042, the Supreme Court’s recent cases involving public displays and practices that contain a religious element instruct that an analysis of the permissibility of a display must focus on the nature of the display and our country’s historical practices and understandings.  Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. KP-0042 (2015) (citing Van Orden, 545 U.S. at 686, 689-91; Lynch, 465 U.S. at 679-80, 685-86; Town of Greece v. Galloway, 134 S. Ct. 1811, 1819 (2014)).  When viewed in that context, it is clear that a deputy sheriff may place a cross with a thin blue line on his or her patrol vehicle without establishing a religion in violation of the First Amendment.”


From the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial to Arlington National Cemetery, the Cross has a long history in America. “In addition to its religious significance, the cross has a long history in America and elsewhere as a symbol of service and sacrifice.  For more than a century, crosses have been used at revered places like Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery to honor the service and memorialize the ultimate sacrifice of members of the U.S. Armed Forces.  When used in this manner, “’a Latin cross is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs.  It is a symbol often used to honor and respect those whose heroic acts, noble contributions, and patient striving help secure an honored place in history for this Nation and its people.’”


The cross conveys respect all Texans should have for our law enforcement officers who risk their lives to protect us and our communities. “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.  Like those whose service to country is honored by crosses at military cemeteries, law enforcement officers risk their lives to protect us.  The symbol of the cross appropriately conveys the solemn respect all Texans should have for the courage and sacrifice of our peace officers.  That is an entirely appropriate public purpose, and the Constitution cannot legitimately be interpreted to prohibit it.”

To view Governor Abbott’s brief, click here