published Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Bradley County: Civil liberties experts criticize Bradley sheriff’s blog

Audio clip

Tim Gobble

Audio clip

Rob Boston

Audio clip

Peter Irons

Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble has drawn criticism from civil libertians in California and Washington, D.C., for the Christian statements in one of his weekly blog postings.

Sheriff Gobble, who writes a column on the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office Web site each week, posted one on Jan. 8 titled “Our Christian Heritage.”

The blog caught the attention of Rob Boston, senior policy analyst for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an independent Washington, D.C.-based group. Mr. Boston posted a link to the column and a rebuttal of its message that the United States is a Christian nation.

“A sheriff’s job is to ensure the public safety of a community,” Mr. Boston said in a telephone interview. “He’s not supposed to be pushing the Christian nation claptrap.”

Peter Irons, a civil liberties law professor at the University of California, San Diego, was alerted to the column on the Americans United Web site. He said it “sends a message that Bradley County is a Christian county, and the sheriff is endorsing that.”

“If he wanted to print that in a church bulletin, that’s fine,” Mr. Irons said. “But this is an official taxpayer-funded Web site.”

Sheriff Gobble, who said he stands behind the column, dismissed his critics.

“I’m not sure we need to get overly concerned about what some extreme left-wing liberal guy out in California has to say about us here in Tennessee,” Sheriff Gobble said.

The column details examples of what the sheriff calls Christian heritage in the founding and history of the United States. It says the sheriff opens the Bradley County jail to “churches and ministries in our community who want to hold Bible studies for those who are incarcerated.”

Sheriff Gobble said he sees the Bible studies program as a positive influence. It is completely voluntary, he said, and people of all faiths may participate as long as presenters pass criminal background checks.

Mr. Boston, a 21-year-veteran of Americans United, said he rarely sees law enforcement officials write or post religious opinions.

“Any public official is expected to represent the entire community,” he said, but the danger in a column such as Sheriff Gobble’s is that someone might see the Christian message as excluding other religious views.

To safeguard against any legal violations, Mr. Boston said the sheriff must ensure that all religious groups and secular organizations have equal access.

Sheriff Gobble said the program does not discriminate.

“We’re not limiting anybody who wants to come,” he said.

The sheriff said he has not received any complaints and has gotten more positive feedback than for any other column he’s written.

But Mr. Irons said people are somewhat intimidated when an authority figure expresses that type of message and often do not complain.

Mr. Boston and Mr. Irons refuted Sheriff Gobble’s claim that the United States has a Christian heritage.

“That’s sort of a historical revision of the record,” Mr. Irons said.

In his blog response to Sheriff Gobble’s column, Mr. Irons says historical documents such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence contain nonspecific religious references such as “a creator,” “the Lord” and “Divine Providence,” but no references to Jesus Christ or specific Christian tenets.

Regardless of historical perspective, Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said posting the column is a problem in itself.

“It is unacceptable for a sheriff who is an authority figure, as he needs to be, to use a work-related Web site and blog to proselytize about his belief,” Ms. Weinberg said.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
GreenKepi said...

Hang in there Sheriff Gobble! It's so refreshing to see an "authority figure"...stand up to these "so-called" civil liberties' types!!! God bless!!!!!!!!!!

January 17, 2009 at 8:29 a.m.
rolando said...

Absolutely agree with your actions, Sheriff.

Take heart from the now-famous Arizona sheriff who [legally] does things his way, does them well, delivers the goods, and ignores the ACLU wingnuts and their ilk who try their best to shut him down -- and fail.

January 17, 2009 at 5:37 p.m.
hotdiggity said...

I am thankful for some organizations who fight to preserve our nation from a "state" religion which has always resulted in prejudice, discrimination, and persecution. Does anyone remember the Inquisition, persecution of Jews for hundreds of years, the Crusades, etc? Or the persecution of witches, Mormons, or Quakers in America. Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq, Iran. State sponsored religion has resulted in horrendous persecution throughout the ages and any cursory reading of the Old Testament reveals a bloodbath of innocent people who did not follow the believers of "God". A small sampling here..

One religion in America? No thank you.

January 17, 2009 at 9:27 p.m.
rolando said...

We do not now nor have we ever had a single religion in this country, state sponsored or no.

Having no religion is a form of religion; one must know of something before it can be denied. Even non-believers have the right to determine their own method of worship, if any, but they do NOT have a right to not be offended by others.

Morals and ethics depend on a belief in a higher authority that will deal out retribution in some form, in this life or the next; if a person does not believe in that authority they feel no need to control their actions which tend toward the amoral. Society's needs and demands, to them, are meaningless; society exists only for them. Only fear of secular authority commands their self-control; without that authority they behave little better than animals. See "Lord of The Flies".

January 17, 2009 at 10:17 p.m.
Whimsie said...

Left wing liberals and atheists are always quick to attack and they are given a big platform in the media to spout their hate and anger at God and at Christians. Thank you Sheriff Gobble for not backing down. Your comment was great about not caring about some left wing nut in California and your right to freedom of speech.

For some reason Jesus Christ scares the left. His power, his ability to change people's lives threatens these people. In my opinion, the ACLU, left leaning professors, and think tank liberals seem to desire to destroy the foundations of our nation and to have some type of revisionist history. Americans need to stand up and push back against anti-American speech, and proudly defend and proclaim the virtues and the goodness of our nation and the right of free speech, even to Christians. Our Presidents, our Congressional leaders, all elected, and others have said and still say some of the very same things that Sheriff Gobble stated, because they do have freedom of speech. When Barack Obama takes the oath of office on the Bible that President Lincoln used, another man who loved God, he will be placing his hand on a Bible that declares Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

January 18, 2009 at 12:42 a.m.
Whimsie said...

The organization that Mr. Rob Boston represents is against crosses to honor state patrol officers who have died in the line of duty. Pray for him and his organization. Pray too for Sheriff Gobble to stand against the slings and arrows of those who want to shove God more and more out of our nation, and who want to eliminate the mere mention of the name of Jesus.

January 18, 2009 at 2:52 p.m.
corey said...

Why does it seem to me there are so many uneducated people of religion in America than in any other country in the World?

Let me educate those who are reading now:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” ~ Tripoli of Barbary. Art. 11. - Authored by American diplomat Joel Barlow in 1796, the following treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, having seen the treaty, signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the Nation.


"The number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church and the State." ~ James Madison a.k.a. 'The Father of the Constitution of the United States of America


"The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy." ~ George Washington


"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites." ~ Thomas Jefferson


“The insinuation of "In God we trust" and "One nation under God" on our money and Pledge of Allegiance, respectively, are treated, Boston quipped, as if they were hammered in directly by the Founders upon inception of our country. In fact, these were reactions to the fear of "godless Communism" and other factors and didn't take place until the 1950's. There are also remarks and documents that support the "Christian Nation" ideas, but these are on the periphery, with little or no power, flatly overturned, or disregarded and embarrassing. The Northwest Ordinance is held up, for example, by the Religious Right for its wording as if it has the same central role in our government as the U.S. Constitution. Boston observed that in the 19th century, fundamentalist clerics bemoaned the godless nature of the Constitution and strove to amend it to make references to God and Christianity. Now, however, the spiritual descendants of these people are making wild distortions to somehow hallucinate such meaning into the same document.” ~ Free thought Association of West Michigan, Meeting Minutes for June 25, 2003; #141, Topic: Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State


Corey Mondello Boston, Massachusetts>

Whimsie said...

There are many more quotations to support the claim that the United States was founded by individuals who followed Judeo/Christian beliefs. While not preferring one religion over another, our nation shows its belief in a God of the Bible. Documents, currency, buildings, monuments, etc. bear this out as truth.

The majority of the people of this nation declare themselves as Christian and therefore, if the people believe in God and Jesus, and they have since our founding, then Sheriff Gobble's statements, as many other lawmakers and elected officials are only a commentary on what is evident at the Supreme Court, other official buildings, and in the halls of Congress. These public statements on the walls of our courts and other institutions support the Ten Commandments and other Bible based beliefs.

January 19, 2009 at 7:01 p.m.
chadsherk said...

This article shows us that Tim Gobble is the kind of man we NEED in US Congress. Glad to hear of your intent to run! Here's hoping for another landslide!

January 22, 2009 at 2:37 p.m.
dcmdm said...

I am glad to be getting old if I must live in a country with no morals or values. These good qualities are from God and we have not helped ourselves, particularly our youth, by in- sisting that they are separate from schools and government! We have a corrupt government, getting worse by the hour, because we have begun the process of "separation". This is a step back into the days of lawlessness when greed ruled.
The Bible teaches service, unselfishness, humility, honesty, and I can see that these things are definitly being left out of school and government because of the results we are left with.
Oh for more good men like the sheriff.

January 28, 2009 at 11:18 a.m.
please login to post a comment

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.