Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Another Jesus Picture Controversy

The ACLU of Louisiana is threatening to sue the city of Slidell if they do not remove a picture of Jesus, accompanied by a sign underneath that says, “To know peace, obey these laws”, from the lobby of the city courthouse.

Several people have complained to the ACLU about the picture, and one has filed a written complaint, prompting the organization to intervene, said Joe Cook, the Louisiana chapter’s executive director. The ACLU also wants the court to remove lettering beneath the portrait that says, “To know peace, obey these laws.”

The organization sent a letter Wednesday to court officials saying the display violates the First Amendment and therefore must come down. Specifically, it violates the Establishment Clause, which holds that church and state must remain separate, the ACLU says. The organization says the portrait’s presence in the court building serves to advance religion.


This one is pretty much a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the city court judge seems clueless in response:

Slidell City Court Judge Jim Lamz, who was unavailable for comment Wednesday, issued a statement through Ann Barks, a court spokeswoman. Barks noted that the display had been in place for several years.

“I was shocked and disappointed to receive the letter,” Lamz said in the statement. “To my knowledge, no one has made a complaint. I’m disappointed the ACLU released their letter to the press either before or simultaneously to us, which indicates they’re not interested so much in a resolution, but in confrontation and publicity.”

Interestingly, not a single word about the legal issues. Surely a judge knows that his disappointment and his characterization of the ACLU’s motives are completely irrelevant to the legal reality of the case. He also has to know that if he chooses not to take the picture down he’s going to lose and lose badly. This is not a close call. That picture and that caption can’t possibly be seen as anything other than an endorsement of Christianity.

Comments

  1. #1 Russell
    June 24, 2007

    There is a very simple mental exercise that everyone should do, when pondering how they view such cases: substitute for the “innocuous” act or object one from a religion they despise, or substitute for the “offensive” act or object one from a religion they approve. The legal answer should remain the same in both cases.

    Of course, that exercise is a bit tougher for those of us who don’t have much regard for any religion. ;-)

  2. #2 Ex-drone
    June 24, 2007

    Is this a consequence having judges elected? Is he speaking to his electoral base?

  3. #3 Slumbuzzle
    June 24, 2007

    Seems a pretty clear cut violation of the Establishment Clause. It’s laughable, even if his claim of no complaints were true, that he feels it’s a legal display.

    Being originally from Slidell, though, I’d have to say that this seems pretty much par for the course. I remember most of the people being fairly secular and yet, oddly, we seemed to have heavy blue law enforcement while I was growing up.

  4. #4 SharonB
    June 24, 2007

    To flesh out what Russell proposed, can you imagine if someone switched the picture of Jesus with that of, say Khomeni (same quote below it)?

    Delicious!

  5. #5 kehrsam
    June 24, 2007

    Since it has only been hanging for “several years” I assume that there is no defense in terms of historical presence. Thus, no possible way to win against the suit.

    I also fail to understand why my fellow Christian complains,

    I’m disappointed the ACLU released their letter to the press either before or simultaneously to us, which indicates they’re not interested so much in a resolution, but in confrontation and publicity.

    What, did he consult with the ACLU before he put the thing up? Why on earth does he imagine other people will respect his delicate sensibilities after he has shown a complete disregard for theirs? Can these people even read their Bibles and those “Do unto others” and “Render unto Caesar” bits?

  6. #6 BobApril
    June 24, 2007

    Kehrsam asked: “Can these people even read their Bibles and those “Do unto others” and “Render unto Caesar” bits?”
    Of course they can, Kehrsam…they just read it a little differently. “Do unto others…” They’d be DELIGHTED for you to hang up a picture of Jesus and a motto somewhere. And they’re doing the same unto you! (The idea that you might hang someone else’s picture may not have occurred to them.) As for “Render unto Caesar,” well, if they can manage it, the government will be officially Christian – and then they have no conflict.
    They do seem to have a little trouble reading “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” though.

  7. #7 mollishka
    June 24, 2007

    They do seem to have a little trouble reading “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” though.

    Wait, where in the bible does it say that? …

    And isn’t it somewhat ironic that it’s not even a picture of Jesus, it’s just a picture of what some people might think he might of looked like?

  8. #8 Wes
    June 24, 2007

    I like the “tit-for-tat” tactic that some secularists have been taking lately, such as distributing atheist/agnostic material in a school’s backpack mail program after the religious right demanded they be allowed to do it, or putting up a monument quoting from the Treaty of Tripoli in response to Ten Commandment monuments.

    I’d like to see some local secularists start a campaign to put up a picture of Thomas Paine next to the Jesus picture, with this excellent Paine quote underneath it:

    “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

  9. #9 bijoy
    June 24, 2007

    Hi, i just surfed in searching for interesting blogs on Spirituality, you have a cool blog. Do keep up the good work. I’ll be back even though i live far from where you live. its nice to be able to see what people from across the world thinks.

    Warm Regards from the Other Side of the Moon.

    On a related note perhaps you might find the following link interesting. Its propossing a theory and i’ll like to hear your take on the subject via comments. See ya…

    Was
    Jesus an Essenes ?

    Bibby

    Kerala, India

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.