An out-of-state watchdog group claims Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown violated the Constitution by running an ad with an overtly religious message in The Daily News last month.

The group, Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based church/state watchdog group, said it has questioned the Onslow County Board of Commissioners as to whether Brown used county money to pay for the ad.

Brown told The Daily News on Wednesday that he paid for the ad and dozens of others like it in the past 21 years out of his own pocket.

“It’s my money,” he said. “I earned it, and I’ll spend it however I like.”

Brown said who pays for his newspaper ads is not a secret.

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