Sherif Eric Watson Suffers Moral and Financial Loss to Atheists
July 12, 2016
HometownCleveland has learned that mediators in the case involving American Atheists Inc. v. Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson have reached an agreement and Watson is not happy with the result.
The paperwork has been signed but terms of the settlement haven’t yet been made public. We can say it will cost Watson and the county. The sheriff’s office budgets for litigation, and while the settlement is within the county’s limit of liability, somebody has to cough up the $5,000 deductible. There are other considerations to the agreement as well, including ensuring Watson not be allowed to continue violating citizens’ First Amendment rights of free speech.
Co-plaintiffs in the case, Bradley County resident Lois Crawford (AKA, Jane Doe) and Joshua Stephens charged that Watson was using the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office’s website to promote religion. As part of the monetary settlement, there will also be policy changes regarding the website that will rethink religious references and possibly require monitoring Watson for compliance.
The American Atheists group contends Watson’s postings to the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office’s website violated the so-called separation of church and state. Further (and more to the point for us), the complaint charges Watson deleted and blocked comments to the sheriff’s Facebook page that expressed a point of view different from, or contrary to, his own.