Roy Exum: What! So Help Me God!

Thursday, June 27, 2013
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

When a military officer in any branch of service is commissioned in the United States, the last three words of the oath are “ … so help me God.” The same is true for an enlisted soldier in the Army, Navy, Marines or our Air Force – the oath ends, “so help me God.” So what evil worm has infiltrated our Department of Justice where the Civil Rights Division of those who keep our country strong has just descended on the sheriff of Bossier Parish in northwest Louisiana?

Julian Whittington, a progressive sheriff who has served the department in some capacity for the last 26 years and today manages over 300 employees and a budget of $30 million, oversees three jails and two youth programs, among other things, right outside of Shreveport. The youth programs, one for troubled youth and another called the Young Marines, have graduated over 1,000 kids since 2002 and only a scant few of those graduates have been inside one of the jails.

Recently the sheriff got a letter from the Department of Justice informing him that $30,000 of Federal monies would be withheld unless he, the sheriff, sent a letter to Washington avowing that there would be no longer be any prayer, religious activities, proselytization, and that the word “God” would cease to be mentioned at any time. “We were informed that these are unacceptable, inherently religious activities and the Department of Justice would not be able to fund the programs,” he told reporters.

It seems our DOJ doesn’t know much about Louisiana or, more particularly, Sheriff Julian Whittington. “I flat said, ‘It’s not going to happen,” he told Fox News recently. “Enough is enough! This is the United States of America – and the idea that the mere mention of God or voluntary prayer is prohibited is ridiculous … As Sheriff of Bossier Parish, I will never sign the requested letter preventing these ‘inherently religious activities’ from being part of our program.”

So just what is the Young Marines’ oath: “From this day forward, I sincerely promise, I will set an example for all other youth to follow and I shall never do anything that would bring disgrace or dishonor upon God, my Country and its flag, my parents, myself or the Young Marines. These I will honor and respect in a manner that will reflect credit upon them and myself. Semper Fidelis.”

Meetings of the Young Marines always begun with a voluntary prayer by a member or a moment of silence. It has been this way for the last 12 years. But the DOJ also took exception to one of five “elements” in the Young Marines Creed which includes the pledge, “Keep myself clean in mind by attending the church of my faith.”

The sheriff is angry and hurt. “Right here in good, old Bossier Parish, Louisiana in the United States of America –  something as basic as voluntary prayer and the mere mention of God is offensive and prohibited (by the government)? “The money is not the issue,” he told Fox News. “It’s the principle of the matter. What is going on here? Who is dictating what can or can’t be said in Bossier Parish?”

Congressman John Fleming, R-La., can’t believe it, either. “There is a very wide effort coming out of the administration that seeks to stamp out freedom of expressions – particularly religion and especially freedom of Christian expression,” he fumed. “They are willing to throw the youth overboard and remove the funding just in the name of making this an atheist, agnostic, secular organization.”

 “They (DOJ) don’t want anything to have any sort of religious support – even down to prayer,”  Rep. Fleming said. “It’s sad and it’s inconsistent with the intentions of the framers of the Constitution.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal – increasingly popular on the national stage -- has received a letter from the sheriff but has not made a public comment. In his letter to the governor, Sheriff Whittington minced few words. “This is an appalling situation where someone at the Department of Justice, Office of Civil Rights in Washington, D.C. could, would and did go to great lengths to prevent even the mere mention of God in any way to the youth in these programs,” he wrote. Whittington was quite candid about the government’s alleged “aggression and infringement of our religious freedoms.”

The Department of Justice did not respond to the Fox News reports but in Wednesday editions of the Washington Times, it seemed as though somebody in D.C. was having second thoughts. An e-mail from the Office of Programs within the DOJ read, “The Office of Justice Programs found the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office’s Youth Diversion Program compliant, and therefore eligible for the grant. Whether or not the program receives the grant funding is decided by Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, the state administering agency for the OJP Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program.”

Perhaps things will work out. But, whoa, not according to the sheriff. “There’s nothing to work out. This is our plan and we aren’t going to compromise,” he said. “We hope they understand our position because it’s not up for debate. This is how we will do our program.”

“I don’t work for people in Washington. I work for the people of Bossier Parish and the majority of people in Bossier feel the same as I do. What we are asking for is certainly not infringing or forcing anyone to do anything. We are not lining people up against a wall and forcing them to pray. It has always been a volunteer led prayer.”

“It’s not going to happen. Enough is enough.” He should have added, “so help me God.”

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