Church sermons delivered by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd in uniform has drawn a complaint from a group advocating religious freedom.
On Monday, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the sheriff, warning that preaching in uniform is a violation of the First Amendment. The complaint was prompted by a Judd’s April 19 sermon at Lakeland’s First Baptist Church at the Mall.
The sheriff’s reply: He’ll be speaking at another church this Sunday.
“I found it humorous and entertaining,” Judd told The Tampa Tribune on Wednesday. “They obviously mischaracterized the sermon I preached. I was shocked. It is most bizarre.”
In the April homily, which can be seen on the church’s website, Judd wears his sheriff’s uniform as the tells the congregation about his 2005 program for faith-based jail dorms — without using tax dollars — where 1,490 inmates have “accepted Jesus.”
Judd regularly gives sermons around the county. On Father’s Day, he’ll be at the Fellowship Assembly of God in Lakeland, an appearance scheduled before the letter was sent.
The foundation said that by appearing in uniform Judd gives the impression the county endorses Christianity and “sends a message of exclusion” to non-Christians.
“You cannot preach in church as Sheriff Judd, you must do so as Mr. Judd, private citizen,” the foundation told the sheriff.