FFRF cautions Steubenville ‘not to be duped’ by religious right offers

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has cautioned the City of Steubenville, Ohio, to place the Constitution and taxpayers’ pockets over risky offers by religious right groups to fight FFRF to keep a cross on its city logo.

FFRF had sent a letter to the city on behalf of a local complainant calling attention to the constitutional problems with the city’s new logo. Part of the silhouette prominently depicts Christ the King Chapel of Franciscan University with a cross atop it. The logo was commissioned by the city from Nelson Fine Art and Gifts, which claims it is the largest-volume American manufacturer of Catholic art and gifts.

A week ago the city sent word that it would be removing the chapel and cross from the city logo. Read FFRF’s earlier press release. 

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a conservative Catholic-oriented legal group, plus several religious right groups which have not been publicly named, subsequently apparently contacted the city offering “free” help to defend the Christian logo.

“Do not be duped by offers from religious right legal groups. They may volunteer their time pro bono but they never pick up the plaintiffs’ tab,” wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott in a letter sent yesterday.

Elliott warned the city “about accepting such offers, which will put city taxpayers at risk.” Elliott cited several high profile state-church cases in which Christian legal groups that represented government bodies ended up costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars when the cases were lost. 

The Becket Fund defended the city of Cranston, R.I., from Jessica Ahlquist’s challenge to the unconstitutional prayer mural in her school. After the Becket Fund lost the case earlier this year, the school and City of Cranston officials agreed to pay $150,000 to reimburse the ACLU of Rhode Island for part of its legal fees.

By the logo designer’s admission, the chapel and cross are a symbol of “faith.” The depiction of the cross and chapel on the city logo is a “near copy of the Franciscan University logo, which further blurs the line between church and state,” Elliott added.

“Crosses do not belong on the logos of American cities. We are not a ‘Christian nation’ or a theocracy, but were first among nations to adopt a secular constitution wisely separating religion from government,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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