Yet another local government has received a threatening letter citing “separation of church and state” that targets perceived religious expression in the public arena.
The City of DeLand, Florida received a letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) that claims that an anonymous resident complained to AU about the City’s official seal. The seal dates back to 1882 when the City was incorporated. It includes the City’s name, its founding date, and an anchor, heart, and cross that AU claims is a representation of faith, hope, and charity. As far as the City is aware, this is the first complaint it has ever received about the seal in its 131-year history.
We sent a letter to City officials explaining that the City’s seal is constitutional. The letter notes similarities between DeLand’s seal and other city seals or insignias that have been upheld in court. We included one court’s observation that “the people of the United States did not adopt the Bill of Rights in order to strip the public square of every last shred of public piety. The notion that the First Amendment commands a brooding and pervasive devotion to the secular . . . is a notion that simply perverts our history.”
Our letter also notes that the seal’s 131-year history is strong evidence of its constitutionality in light of Supreme Court precedent that accords great weight to the longstanding nature of government displays. We encouraged the City to maintain its official seal as is, and we also told the City Attorney and City Manager that the ACLJ is available to discuss how we may be of assistance in the defense of the City’s seal in the event that a lawsuit is filed challenging it.
This is yet another unfortunate example of a local government being threatened based upon the kind of extreme interpretation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause that the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected.
The Moral Liberal recommends Jay Sekulow’s: Witnessing Their Faith: Religious Influence on Supreme Court Justices and Their Opinions
CeCe Heil is a Senior Counsel for the ACLJ specializing in public policy and global legal matters including the United Nations.
Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice.