FFRF gets Ohio village to change seal

An Ohio village recently removed a religious seal and declaration after several objections from FFRF.

The seal of the village of Archbold contained a church at its center, nestled within images of education, farming, forestry and industry. The seal was featured in a number of places, including government buildings, street signs, village forms and documents, such as utility bills, and on the official website. The website also contained on its history page a declaration that Archbold is a “Christian community.”

Such a seal and statement were unconstitutional, FFRF informed the village several times.

“The inclusion of a church on the official village seal and declaration that the village ‘is a Christian community’ violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler wrote to Archbold Mayor Jim Wyse last year. “Federal courts have ruled that similar seals violate the Establishment Clause.”

FFRF suggested to the village that changing the seal would make sense in other ways, as well. Nearly 30 percent of Americans are non-Christian, including 43 percent of Millennials, practicing a minority religion or no religion at all. To have a religious seal and declaration alienates and ostracizes this huge portion of the population.

After three follow-up letters to the village, FFRF finally persuaded it to change the seal and remove the church. (The Christian declaration was removed from the website immediately after FFRF’s first letter.)

The village website now features a “Live Archbold!” motto superimposed on a state of Ohio shape. The new motto calls Archbold “A Community of Character!”

FFRF is gratified that Archbold made the right choice.

“We’re happy that we were finally able to persuade the village,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The church symbol and the declaration of Christian heritage were blatant endorsements of a particular religion.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation