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.