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A Tennessee sheriff made an Easter post on the county sheriff’s Facebook page and the American Atheists are having none of it.

The American Atheists Organization and a private citizen filed suit against Bradley County Tennessee Sheriff, Eric Watson. The suit claims that Watson violated their First Amendment rights by posting the message, “He is risen” on the department’s Facebook page on Easter Sunday.

The still unnamed private citizen, going by the name “Jane Doe” initiated the complaint. She says that she commented on the post, and maintains that the post was deleted by the sheriff’s department. When that happened, she complained to the Mayor’s assistant, according to the lawsuit. She says that later that day, her Facebook account was blocked by the sheriff’s department. After complaining directly to the department, her account was unblocked. Jane Doe then initiated the lawsuit through the American Atheists Organization.

This week, the federal suit was settled with $41,000 awarded to the American Atheists. As part of the settlement, the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page may not be used to promote any religious organization, religion, religious event or belief.

A press release from the American Atheists states that, “While the county and sheriff admit to no wrong-doing under the agreement, the county will pay a total of $15,000 in damages to the organization and the local plaintiff’s, Jane Doe and Joshua Stevens, and $26,000 in attorney’s fees.”

The group says it is pleased that the sheriff decided to do the right thing. However, in his own press release, Sheriff Watson says that the settlement was merely a business decision. “It was not county funds, and I maintain my denial of responsibility for any violations of the rights of the plaintiffs,” Watson stated.

What do you think? Should the sheriff have made the religious post to the county’s Facebook page?

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