A national state-church watchdog is taking to task a Colorado county clerk and sheriff for their unconstitutional stand against the separation of state and church.
In responding to a group email in August about how county clerks should handle issuing a same-sex marriage license if it goes against one's religion, Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder wrote how he has hung a religious-themed poster where "there is no way to miss it if you are in for a marriage license."
Freedom From Religion Foundation Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel called out Schroeder on the constitutional violation in a letter of complaint to the members of email group, which consisted of several county clerks, a state senator and state representative.
"According to the email chain, some clerks or employees are uncomfortable issuing marriage licenses to gay couples," Seidel wrote. "Hopefully you all know by now that you must issue licenses to gay couples whatever your personal religion."
Seidel also took issue with the religious poster.
"Mr. Schroeder is displaying words from his religion's holy book to issue a religious warning to all citizens in a government building," he wrote. "This is unconstitutional."
After receiving Seidel's letter, Elbert County Sheriff Shayne Heap inserted himself into the conversation, vehemently disagreeing with FFRF's stance.
"These conversations are initiated to pervert the truth and do whatever is necessary to get the results you want," Heap wrote. "I'm going to get back to work and I'm going leave the cross in my office, the Bible on my desk and I support the clerk's constitutional rights."
The issue began when Cheyenne (Colo.) County Clerk Patricia Daugherty sent out a group email on Aug. 7.
"I have a delilma [sic] in my office that I wish to get a little feedback on," she wrote. "In my office, everyone has personal (religious) objections to issuing same sex marriage licenses. . . Am I the only office with this delima [sic]? What is your plan?"
That was followed up by an email on Aug. 9 from Schroeder, who decided to mix his faith with that of his government function.
"I pray for all the clerks across this country who have been made to make a terrible decision," Schroeder's email states. "I pray for our state legislators for them to use God's Holy Bible as a guide to govern. Prayer is the only thing that will change the downward spiral our country is in."
Schroeder recounted in his email response to the group how he has dealt with the mandate that county clerks offer marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
"I talked with a local artist, who is also a Christian, and he created a beautiful poster which I have had hanging for about a year," Schroeder wrote. "There is no way to miss it if you are in for a marriage license. It is a picture of a bride standing on a hill with the groom walking up the hill to meet her. On the bottom I have a portion of the verse in I Corinthians where Paul says, 'Each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.' And cite the verse."
Schroeder believes he is following the letter of the law and wrote that he purchased the poster with his own money.
"I am not denying anyone service," he wrote. "My thought process is that they have to see the poster and if they choose to violate God's written Word, then that is on their head. I have warned them."
"The fact that this poster was commissioned and purchased with personal funds is irrelevant.," Seidel wrote. "If anything, it proves the point that Mr. Schroeder is abusing a public office to further his personal religion."
Several other clerks have already responded to FFRF saying they either refused to hang the poster or bought the poster but have since removed it from government property.
FFRF is a national nonprofit organization representing about 23,000 members across the country, including more than 650 members in Colorado with chapters in both Colorado Springs and Denver.
This display will be going up soon at the courthouse in Franklin Co., Ind. Pictured: FFRF's legal department and executive directors. Photo- Andrew L. Seidel.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has acquired a permit to place its Bill of Rights "nativity" display on the lawn of the Franklin County Courthouse. FFRF's display setup event will take place on Sunday, Nov. 29 at 10:00 a.m. The location is the Courthouse lawn in Brookville, Ind., near the corner of Main Street and 4th Street (401-449 Main St, Brookville, IN 47012). Our local contact will be there along with at least a dozen members of the Tri-State Freethinkers.
All are welcome to help FFRF celebrate the Winter Solstice and the "birth" of the Bill of Rights on Dec. 15, 1791.
This is the first year that Franklin County will allow a variety of displays on its courthouse lawn, thanks to FFRF's lawsuit with the ACLU of Indiana, challenging the county's decade-long policy of only allowing a nativity scene on its lawn.
FFRF is a state/church watchdog with about 23,000 nonreligious members, including more than 350 in Indiana.
"We'd prefer that the government stay out of the business of promoting any religious belief or atheism on government property," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "But, because the county created a forum for displays in response to FFRF's lawsuit, we are taking the opportunity to ensure that freethinkers are well represented at the courthouse in Brookville, too."
FFRF invites area freethinkers to attend the placement of its solstice display this Sunday, Nov. 29 at 10:00 a.m. "to celebrate diversity, freethought, the Winter Solstice, and the freedoms we all share in the United States, thanks to our Bill of Rights."
"There Is No Afterlife: Enjoy Life Now" is the message of cheer that an octogenarian member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is sponsoring on a billboard in Janesville, Wis. It will be up through at least early December.
The message is posted on a 10-by-30-foot billboard off U.S. 14 East near North Lexington Drive. Janesville is about 40 miles south of Madison.
Wayne Hensler, a Wisconsin Lifetime FFRF member, calls the message "a legacy for my grandchildren."
Since 2010, he's paid to have the message placed several times throughout Wisconsin, most recently in Janesville in 2013. He's expressed the hope that other FFRF members might be "inspired" to place similar messages in their areas on behalf of FFRF.
"Christianity instructs that we humans are just 'passing through' this world," said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, a former evangelical minister who is author of several books, including "Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist," "Godless" and "Life-Driven Purpose."
"Think of hymns such as 'This World Is Not My Home.' But as Emily Dickinson put it, 'That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet,' " Barker said.
"We should enjoy life now, and also realize that the only afterlife that ought to concern us is leaving our descendants a secure, pleasant future," added Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-founder and co-president.
The colorful billboard has a "stained glass window" theme, which is FFRF's signature billboard look, first debuting in Wisconsin in late 2007 with the slogans "Imagine No Religion" and "Beware of Dogma." The Madison, Wis.-based state/church watchdog is the nation's largest association of nonbelievers, with about 23,000 members, including more than 1,300 in Wisconsin.