Pennsylvania officials discussed whether to remove a cross from their county’s seal during a board meeting on Jan. 28. They received a letter saying the inclusion of the cross violates the First Amendment.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group that advocates for the separation of church and state, sent a letter to Lehigh County executive Tom Muller on Nov. 5 stating the inclusion of a cross in the seal goes against the Constitution.
The seal features a blue outline of a cross in the center of the emblem.
The letter argues since the county uses the seal on all its official documents and facilities, the county is endorsing Christianity above all other religions.
"We urge the county to immediately discontinue using this seal and to develop a new seal that is both constitutional and representative of all citizens," states the letter. "We request a written response outlining what steps the county is taking to comply with constitutional dictates.”
According to county officials, the Board of Commissioners has the authority to change the county’s seal.
Lawyers at the Freedom from Religion Foundation said they did not hear from the county and sent another letter asking for the removal of the cross.
"As long as they're continuing to use the seal, it remains a liability," said Freedom from Religious Freedom attorney Patrick Elliot. "Any person or group could challenge it.”
Lehigh County’s Board of Commissioners said they were not aware of the issue until the church and state group sent the follow-up letter.
Commissioners’ chairman Brad Osborne said the board first heard the issue on Jan. 28 and discussed possible litigation issues in a closed-door session two weeks ago.
"The county is taking counsel from the solicitor's office on how and when to respond," Osborne said.
As of Monday, the county website still uses the seal with the cross in the center.