FFRF has caused county commissioners in West Virginia to rewrite their policy on allowing religious banners to be hung on county courthouse property.
In May, a concerned complainant reported that a gazebo on the Jackson County Courthouse lawn displayed two banners – one containing a bible verse, and another announcing a National Day of Prayer.
“‘If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves, pray, seek my face and turn down their wicked ways; Then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.’ 2 CHRONICLES 7:14,” read the first banner. “NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER 1st Thursday in MAY,” proclaimed the second banner, which also displayed two crosses.
FFRF reminded the commissioners of their First Amendment obligation to remain neutral on matters of religion.
“Encouraging citizens to pray on a banner that is prominently displayed on county property would be viewed by a reasonable observer as an endorsement of religion by the county, and is therefore unconstitutional,” FFRF Attorney Patrick Elliott wrote in his June 1 letter to the commissioners. “The county is further sending a religious message by broadcasting a proselytizing bible verse. No legitimate secular purpose was served by the banners’ message.”
FFRF received a response from the county’s attorney on Sept. 4 that not only confirmed those banners had been removed, but also that the county has adopted a new policy prohibiting the placement of any banners or signs on the gazebo to avoid any future entanglements.
FFRF commends the commissioners for taking action to remedy the violation and to prevent its recurrence.
“We are very pleased that the county ensured that the promotion of religion on public land would not continue and that the courthouse lawn would remain free from religious coercion,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 32,000 members across the country, including members in West Virginia. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.