DELAND — A Washington-based group that works to separate God from government is demanding that officials in Florida remove several images from their city seal, due to their perceived Christian symbolism.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AUSCS), led by Barry Lynn, an attorney and licensed “minister” in the United Church of Christ, recently sent a letter to officials in DeLand, Florida about the matter after receiving a complaint from a local resident. The organization is not releasing the name of the complainant, whom they state has asked to remain anonymous.
“If you look around with this particular collection of things, the heart, cross and anchor, you find it commonly used as a representation for the Christian theological virtues of faith, hope and charity,” Ian Smith, an attorney with AUSCS, told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “We tried to do some research about why these particular symbols were chosen as a seal and we didn’t find anything that would make us think they were chosen for anything other than a Christian theological purpose.”
But city officials say that the seal is historic–dating back to its adoption in 1882–and is not an endorsement of religion.
“The seal was voted on March 1882, the day it was incorporated. So, it’s an important part of our history,” wrote City Manager Michael Pleaus in a statement. “We will not stop using the seal.”
He stated that no one has ever complained about the seal.
City attorney Darren Elkind agreed, opining that most residents would not view the seal as the city’s promotion of Christianity.
AUSCS has given the city 30 days to respond to its request. While it did not threaten a lawsuit, reports state that the matter could be fought in the courts if DeLand officials do not comply.
Reaction to the controversy has been mixed.
“We atheists are taking over. We will remove all this mythology from our government,” wrote one commenter named Mike. “You dinosaurs are on your way out.”
“This country was never founded on any religious principles. It was founded on neutrality and secularism,” another named Dev stated. “No to religion in government.”
“I’m an agnostic atheist,” wrote a third commenter, “and I had no idea a heart and anchor were Christian symbols.”
“I say we remove the heart because it discriminates against the other internal organs. And ditch the anchor because I’m offended by anything that pertains to water activities,” joked a resident named Candice. “Anyone else see how ridiculous this sounds?”
“It’s time all of America gets together and stands up against these thugs and bullies,” declared a man named John. “A symbol of a cross has been our American heritage for over 250 years. … It’s time all of America stands up and stops all this silliness about politically being correct; do what is right, and stand up for your our rights as Christians and religious followers of any kind. Stop letting the minority crowd, the ludicrous people in this great country, change what we stand for.”
Main Photo: Ebyabe