A Georgia courthouse has promised to take down a Christian flag after a complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
A very obviously Christian flag with a cross on top has been prominently on display next to the judge's bench in a Bryan County courtroom. The flag is a traditional evangelical Christian design, reportedly conceptualized by Protestants in the early 20th century. The white in the flag is said to represent the biblical notions of purity, the blue is supposed to stand for baptism in water and the red is meant to symbolize the sacrifice that Jesus made for humankind.
The religious significance of the cross and the flag is indisputable, and FFRF urged that the display be removed immediately.
"An overwhelming majority of federal courts agree that the Latin cross universally represents the Christian religion, and only the Christian religion," FFRF Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell recently wrote to Rebecca Crowe, Bryan County clerk of courts. "And a majority of federal courts have held displays of Latin crosses on public property to be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion."
Media reports indicate that court officials have promised to get rid of the display due to the attention generated by the FFRF letter. However, the display hasn't been taken down yet, and FFRF will monitor the situation to make sure that it is.
"The United States is not a Christian nation, Georgia is not a Christian state and Bryan County is most certainly not a Christian county, yet this is the message this flag and the cross have sent. It's a message of exclusion and intimidation to anyone who is non-Christian or who simply values our secular Constitution and equal justice under the law," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Imagine the outcry if a county judge put up an Islamic flag topped by a star and crescent! This is wrong for precisely the same reason. Government must be neutral about religion."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with almost 24,000 nonreligious members across the country, including more than 400 in Georgia and an Atlanta-area chapter.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has persuaded an Ohio county commissioner to remove religion from her official email signature.
Crawford County Commissioner Jenny Vermillion used two inappropriate signature lines in her county email address. The first of these was a reference to an Old Testament verse, Jeremiah 1:5, along with the politically charged commentary "Choose LIFE!!" (The actual verse reads: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.") The second was a President Eisenhower quote that promotes religion and disparages atheists.
"The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne reminded Crawford County commissioners in a March letter. "The U.S. Supreme Court has said time and again that the 'First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.' This principle is violated when a government employee promotes religious messages on behalf of the county."
Besides, FFRF pointed out, Vermillion's signature lines were politically charged and discriminatory, in violation of county policy. The statement "Choose LIFE!!" along with the Jeremiah 1:5 reference sent a clear anti-abortion message. And the other quote directly disparaged atheists.
FFRF requested that Vermillion delete all these references from her e-mail signature.
And she indeed did. In a terse but to-the-point letter a few days ago, Vermillion replied: "Dear Sir or Madame, It has been removed."
FFRF commends her change of heart.
"County commissioners should not be endorsing religion or taking discriminatory and contentious political stances in their official correspondence," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Vermillion should have known this right from the start of her tenure, but better late than never."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to separation of state and church, with nearly 24,000 nonreligious members across the country, including more than 600 in Ohio. Ohio is an annual "top ten" offender in FFRF's list of the states with the most state/church violations.