Florida City Fights to Keep 131-Year-Old Seal in Church-State Dispute
For 131 years, the city seal of DeLand, Fla., has had a heart, an anchor and a cross, and no one seemed to have a problem with it until now.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State now want it removed because the symbols promote “Christian theological virtues.”
The group argues the symbols violate the First Amendment Establishment Clause that prohibits government from establishing or endorsing a religion.
The dispute stems from an Aug. 23 letter the group wrote to Mayor Robert Apgar which said the group received a complaint from a resident complaining about the seal.
Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, president of the Flagler County chapter of Americans United told MyFoxOrlando.com the seal was “an intrusion of religion into the world of government.”
“The world of government and the world of religion should be separate as called for in the First Amendment of the United States constitution,” he said.
Liberty Counsel Founder Mat Staver tells One NewsNow the complaint really shows how groups like Americans United are absurd.
He says he is amazed that in the letter to the mayor, Americans United ignores similar cases that support the city’s right to have the seal.
“You should obviously think that if it’s an establishment of religion, it surely would have established one by now,” he added. “And I know of no established religion in the city of Deland.”
DeLand City Attorney Darren Elkind said in a Sept. 9 letter to Americans United that the seal doesn’t promote Christianity and the seal can be traced back to the city’s incorporation, when its founders chose symbols of “faith, hope and charity,” according to Fox News.
City Manager Michael Pleus told MyFoxOrlando.com the seal is “an important part of our history… and in 131 years, we’ve never had a complaint about our seal.”
Shapiro argues the cross on the seal “should not have been there in the first place, it is wrong.”
Liberty Counsel is ready to defend the city if Americans United files suit, Staver said.
Sources: MyFoxOrlando.com, OneNewsNow.com, Fox News