Judge: Including cross is 'endorsing' Christianity

Wednesday, October 4, 2017
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

Lehigh Co. (Penn). sealA federal judge may have sided with atheists over a Pennsylvania's county's seal but an attorney insists the county did nothing wrong.

The seal of Lehigh County features a cross and that allowance drew complaints from atheist group Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), which claimed it is unconstitutional.

FFRF sued in 2016 and U.S. District Judge Edward Smith sided with the anti-religious group, stating that a "reasonable observer" would conclude Lehigh is "endorsing" Christianity.

Yet that wasn't enough for FFRF, which complained in a press release that Smith had written a "begrudging" order that nonetheless sided with FFRF.

The cross represents the faith of the early settlers in the area, the county told the court. The seal was adopted in 1944. 

Randall L. Wenger, chief counsel at the Pennsylvania-based Independence Law Center, says public expression of religious history should not be considered unconstitutional.

L.A. county seal"The judge himself recognized that the Establishment cause was intended to prevent a national religion, not to silence all things religious," Wenger explains. "It's just recognition of our history. We should never treat public expression of religion as something as somehow poisonous or bad."

OneNewsNow has reported on the legal fight over the Los Angeles County seal (pictured above), where the cross is atop the historic San Gabriel Mission and, unlike Lehigh County, is not featured so prominently.

Yet a judge ruled last year that it was unconstitutional and "carries with it an aura of prestige, authority, and approval." 

Wenger says he looks forward to a day when hostility toward religion will cease.

"I expect, if the 3rd Circuit takes up this issue," he predicts, "we may have a change of case law in the 3rd Circuit."

If the 3rd Circuit takes the case on appeal, it will likely be in 2018.

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