Nov 25, 2015

As far as the sheriff of a Georgia county is concerned, anyone who doesn’t agree with him on religion should find another place to live or visit.

Mike Jolley is the sheriff of Harris County, which has a population of about 32,000. Jolley, who is apparently fed up with what he deems “political correctness” (but is actually tolerance), decided to send a message of exclusion to anyone who passes by his office. So with his own money, he posted a sign that reads:

“Welcome to Harris County, Georgia! WARNING: Harris County is politically incorrect. We say: Merry Christmas, God Bless America and In God We Trust; We salute our troops and our flag. If this offends you… LEAVE!”

That sign has, unsurprisingly, caused something of a stir locally. Jolley told WLTZ, the Atlanta NBC affiliate, that everyone has the right to free expression.

“I spent 20 years in the Army to give everyone the right not to agree with it and to voice their opinion if they’re not, and that's fine,” he said.  

How confused can one guy get? In Jolley’s case, extremely confused. If Jolley were acting in his capacity as a private citizen, he could put up such a sign without issue. But the placement of an official-looking sign outside the sheriff’s office looks a lot like a government endorsement of belief over non-belief and possibly a violation of the First Amendment.

Beyond that, the sign calls Jolley’s ability to do his job into question. He has sent a message of intimidation to anyone who does not believe in God – or celebrate Christmas, for that matter. This action casts doubt on his ability to treat everyone fairly.

And most importantly, Jolley’s sentiment is anti-American. Jolley claims to be a patriot, but he obviously doesn’t get that the United States is intended to be an open and inclusive place. By telling people who don’t agree with him to “leave,” Jolley is defying the true spirit of the country.  

It’s particularly troubling that someone who served in the military feels the way Jolley does. As he noted, service members fight for the preservation of free speech. But Jolley seems to feel that his speech rights are more important than the rights of a lot of other people. They aren’t. And when Jolley wore his uniform, he defended the Constitution for everyone – not just those who think the way he does.

Now more than ever, America needs to be a place of inclusion. Sometimes political correctness does go too far, but Jolley’s sign is not a real effort to rein in the so-called “PC police.” Instead, he seeks a nation in which everyone shares a narrow set of beliefs or finds another place to live. That is a step on the road to theocracy, which would be a whole lot scarier than mere “political correctness.”