Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Update on Courtroom Jesus Picture

I previously reported on the situation in Slidell, LA, where the ACLU is preparing to file suit to remove a picture of Jesus from the city courthouse. Predictably, some of the local residents are mad at the ACLU and they held a rally to protest the suit:

Standing in the shadow of the Slidell City Court, a swarm of protesters congregated Tuesday night for a rousing and at times revival-like demonstration, denouncing the American Civil Liberties Union and offering a show of unconditional support for the controversial portrait of Jesus that hangs on the wall just inside the courthouse.

More than 250 local residents packed the intersection of Bouscaren and Fourth streets in Slidell ­ which had been blocked off by authorities — and spilled onto the grass that edges the courthouse to pray, cheer and hear speeches from several local pastors and State Rep. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, who organized the event.

Ah, a good politician, this Mr. Crowe; you can never go wrong in electoral politics siding with Jesus against the demon infidels.

Crowe seized on the opportunity to berate the ACLU, which has decried the portrait as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, saying it serves to advance a religious message using a public building.

“The people of Slidell are not going to sit back and take the stuff that got dished out,” he said, eliciting a roar of applause from the crowd.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand how the legal system works. The people of Slidell don’t really have a choice. Sure, they can hold revivals and pitch a good little hissy fit in the streets if they want, but the case will be decided in Federal court, where the judges are deliberately insulated from popular opinion by virtue of having lifetime appointments.

Naturally, some of the rhetoric at the revival was quite silly and overblown. For instance:

Attorneys with the ACLU believe that the display gives the impression that only those who believe in the law of Jesus Christ will receive justice in city court.

But protesters claimed that the portrait, which has been on display since the building opened in 1997, has never posed a problem and fairly represents the majority of residents in their largely Christian community.

“It’s mighty late to decide they don’t want it,” said Jacqueline Battiste, of Slidell. “Something should’ve been done a long time ago. What makes it so different now?”

Wow, a whole ten years! Where do people get the idea that as long as something unconstitutional has gone on for some sufficiently long period of time it magically becomes constitutional?

“You know, (the ACLU) is picking on a small community,” said Randy Lee, 60, of Slidell. A self-described Christian fundamentalist, he gripped a hand-lettered sign that read “In God We Trust.”

“Christians are seen as very passive. It’s time for Christian people to stand up and say, ‘Hey!’”

Oh, yeah, Christians are terribly passive and uninvolved in the political system. It’s not like the religious right organizations have any influence in the Republican party or anything. It’s not like the “poor picked on Christians” meme isn’t one of the most ubiquitous frames in all of politics. What the ACLU is actually doing is trying to prevent the community of Slidell from picking on the minority of non-Christians in their midst and sending a message of exclusion to them. If the picture was of Muhammed, you can bet that all of these excuses for it would be instantaneously gone.

But here’s my favorite part. On the one hand, they claim that the picture if just a historical one and has no real religious meaning:

The picture, which shows Jesus holding an open book of scripture, was identified by a local priest as a 16th century Russian Orthodox icon. The scripture, written in Russian, includes a biblical quotation about judging correctly and wisely…

Still, protesters seemed baffled by the ACLU’s actions, with some saying the portrait is merely an artistic expression, not meant to proselytize or promote Christian faith.

“It’s beautiful,” said Elizabeth Schneider, 52, who lives just outside Lacombe. “I don’t think it was there to represent any one particular religion. You can go to a museum and see something comparable.”

On the other hand, they made it pretty clear exactly what meaning they attached to it:

The rally lasted about an hour and was peppered with prayer and shouts of “Hallelujah!” and “Praise Jesus!” Toward the end of her speech, the Rev. Kathleen Javery-Bacon, of the Holy Ghost and Fire Revival Ministries in Slidell, raised her arm to the sky while chanting, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus” as the crowd echoed her cry.

Oh yeah, it’s just a beautiful painting. You’d have to be crazy to think it was there because of its religious meaning.

Comments

  1. #1 BobApril
    June 28, 2007

    I love this part:
    But protesters claimed that the portrait…has never posed a problem and fairly represents the majority of residents in their largely Christian community.

    Um, yeah, that’s kinda the point. It fairly represents the majority, thus UNFAIRLY discriminating against the minority.

  2. #2 Z
    June 28, 2007

    I wonder what the good christians would say if a fat-bellied Buddha statue were put in the courthouse.

  3. #3 dogmeatib
    June 28, 2007

    It’s nice that they were able to assemble and express themselves… where does that right come from again…?

  4. #4 CPT_Doom
    June 28, 2007

    The picture, which shows Jesus holding an open book of scripture, was identified by a local priest as a 16th century Russian Orthodox icon. The scripture, written in Russian, includes a biblical quotation about judging correctly and wisely…

    In other words, the picture is an icon of the Russian Orthodox church, which I believe is in agreement with the Roman Catholic church that ministers such as Rev. Javery-Bacon are heretics leading their followers to Hell as false preachers.

    I’ll take Hillarious Irony for $500 Alec.

  5. #5 dogmeatib
    June 28, 2007

    Cpt Doom,

    That’s one of the funny things about religion. They condemn non-believers, when they run out of them, they condemn agnostics, then Hindus, then Muslims, then Jews, then other flavors of Christianity. As quoted in the news article, they’re all happy Christians, until they run out of non-Christians to consider themselves superior to.

  6. #6 mark
    June 28, 2007

    “It’s beautiful,” said Elizabeth Schneider, 52, who lives just outside Lacombe. “I don’t think it was there to represent any one particular religion. You can go to a museum and see something comparable.”

    You can go to a museum and see a crucifix standing in a jar of urine–want one of those at the courthouse?

  7. #7 Troublesome Frog
    June 28, 2007

    I wonder if Ms. Schneider would claim that she’s there to defend against the “assault on Christianity” that’s being caused by the removal of the painting that doesn’t represent any one particular religion. My guess is yes.

    This is just like the ID advocates with the Flying Spaghetti Monster. “ID is not religious!” [FSM appears] “Hey! You’re making fun of my religion!” These folks can never keep a straight face long enough push their agenda properly. The moral outrage always shows through at the wrong time.

  8. #8 kehrsam
    June 28, 2007

    Where are the iconoclasts when you need them?

  9. #9 Greta Christina
    June 28, 2007

    “On the one hand, they claim that the picture if just a historical one and has no real religious meaning…On the other hand, they made it pretty clear exactly what meaning they attached to it.”

    Reminds me of ID arguments. “No, this is science, really! It;s not a religion! And people who argue against it are trying to take God out of our lives!”

  10. #10 Skemono
    June 28, 2007

    Off-topic, Ed, but are you planning on commenting on the recent Supreme Court ruling about race-based decisions in schools? (You can get a PDF of the ruling from a link in that article)

  11. #11 386sx
    June 28, 2007

    Still, protesters seemed baffled by the ACLU’s actions

    Haha yeah I’m sure they were real “baffled”. They were probably baffled that anybody would think any beliefs other that theirs weren’t the work of the deeeevviiiiilll.

  12. #12 Eric Seymour
    June 28, 2007

    I wonder what the good christians would say if a fat-bellied Buddha statue were put in the courthouse.

    I can’t speak for the people of Slidell, but if I emigrated to Thailand/India/etc. and there was an image of Buddha/Shiva/etc. in a government building, it wouldn’t cause me any mental anguish or fear of unequal treatment, so long as the actual actions of that government were equal towards all faiths. Similarly, if I emigrated to Saudi Arabia, a lack of Islamic symbols in the local courthouse would hardly assure me I’d be treated equally.

    That’s not to say conclusively the Jesus portrait isn’t an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. I just think this business of “giv[ing] the impression that only those who believe in the law of Jesus Christ will receive justice” is either pure bunk, or there’s a lot of ridiculously emotionally frail folks out there.

  13. #13 Slumbuzzle
    June 28, 2007

    “The people of Slidell are not going to sit back and take the stuff that got dished out,”

    Um, I will. In fact, I’ll cheer and throw a mixer. I haven’t been back in a few years, but I still consider myself “of Slidell.”

    “It’s mighty late to decide they don’t want it,” said Jacqueline Battiste, of Slidell. “Something should’ve been done a long time ago. What makes it so different now?”

    This is the perfect counterargument, and it’s worked so well in the past:
    “Why have a war now? If you thought slavery was wrong, you should have said something a century ago.”

    “Of course I’m sleeping with your sister. If you had a problem with it, why didn’t you say so before the wedding? Oh, by the way, I’ve invited her over for dinner.”

    It’s sad to think that I probably know half of these people.

  14. #14 Slumbuzzle
    June 28, 2007

    Eric,

    I wouldn’t say this causes me any mental anguish, but I do think it’s clearly unconstitutional. State endorsement of one religion is to the exclusion of others and, by necessity, that means it’s actions are unequal towards all faiths.

  15. #15 Beverly Nuckols
    June 30, 2007

    The only reason that the picture is “offensive” to the ACLU is because it’s believed to be a depiction of Jesus? How is the presence of an inanimate object which calls on those who can read the text depicted to judge fairly, a problem?

    Silly waste of energy.

  16. #16 Ed Brayton
    June 30, 2007

    Beverly Nuckols said:

    The only reason that the picture is “offensive” to the ACLU is because it’s believed to be a depiction of Jesus?

    Believed to be? You mean there’s some reason to think it’s not? No one, even those defending the picture, is going to say it’s not a picture of Jesus. I can’t imagine what the point was in adding weasel words to your claim.

    How is the presence of an inanimate object which calls on those who can read the text depicted to judge fairly, a problem?

    The text says nothing about judging fairly. It says “To know peace, obey these laws.” That’s a Biblical reference. So which laws? The laws of the Bible, of course. As for the question of how an inanimate object can be a problem, imagine a different scenario; imagine that instead of a picture of Jesus there was a picture of Muhammed with that same sign beneath it. Would you still be feigning surprise at how an inanimate object can be a problem? I highly doubt it. And those Christians out front protesting would be demanding its removal because they see it as a government endorsement of Islam (and it would be).

  17. #17 Beverly Nuckols
    July 1, 2007

    From the original post: “The scripture, written in Russian, includes a biblical quotation about judging correctly and wisely…” Thanks for the additional information. (I did follow the links to find the more complete translation in your earlier post. Still . . .)

    Really? Offensive? “To know peace, obey these laws?” Sounds like a pretty universal sentiment. I find it difficult to believe that anyone would be offended – regardless of who (Who?) tradition says the image depicts.

    No one knows what Jesus looked like. Nothing “weasel” about that fact. What if the picture was believed to be a Greek or Russian scholar? Would the words bother anyone? That phrase or sentence isn’t in the King James version or any of the modern translations of the Canon. The closest I could come on a Google search was a partial match in the Essene “Gospel of Peace.”

    As I said, silly waste of time and ACLU donors’ money. Certainly makes the ACLU look like a bunch of ideologues – either scared of a fairly universal notion about the correlation between law and peaceful relations between people as stated by a wise man or – what many people I know believe – just plain mean-spirited interference in local traditions about “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” as named in the Declaration of Independence.

    Instead, I believe that most ACLU members are concerned about the actual “civil rights,” those “unalienable rights” named in the Declaration.

  18. #18 Ed Brayton
    July 1, 2007

    I notice that you conveniently dodged the question of whether you would feel the same way if it was a picture of Muhammed and a reference to the Quran rather than Jesus and a reference to a Bible verse. I think the answer is obvious, you just don’t want to say it.

  19. #19 Dave S.
    July 1, 2007

    No one knows what Jesus looked like. Nothing “weasel” about that fact.

    Yeah, that picture could be of anyone. Any tall bearded dude with a robe.

    Maybe its Tommy Chong!

    Ehhhhhh…that doesn’t explain this part though –

    The rally lasted about an hour and was peppered with prayer and shouts of “Hallelujah!” and “Praise Jesus!” Toward the end of her speech, the Rev. Kathleen Javery-Bacon, of the Holy Ghost and Fire Revival Ministries in Slidell, raised her arm to the sky while chanting, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus” as the crowd echoed her cry.

    Though maybe they just really like Cheech and Chong movies down in Louisiana.

  20. #20 Beverly Nuckols
    July 2, 2007

    Who goes around looking for reasons to be offended? Oh, yeah – the ACLU. Which brings out the crowds, doesn’t it? Was anyone genuflecting toward the icon before the lawsuit?

    Well, I wouldn’t move to Utah and sure wouldn’t throw my money at removing Mormon artifacts from their public buildings. And I won’t visit countries that would kill me for not covering my head.

    I tend to look for common ground. As long as they don’t want to kill me or restrict my movements, their words or beliefs about buildings or pictures can’t harm me. That’s not the problem with this picture, is it?

    I don’t go bonkers when someone from another religion gives an invocation. (at meetings, or at our State Capitol, etc.) I heard John 17 in the prayer of a Hindu, once, and I sort of enjoyed watching the Iman pray while surrounded by women in sleeveless dresses at the Austin House of Representatives this spring, even though what he told us of his words was much more offensive than the translation of those on the Russian icon.

  21. #21 raj
    July 2, 2007

    Beverly Nuckols | July 2, 2007 05:14 AM

    Um, if the judge wants to genuflect before a graven image, he can put the graven image under his bench. It is entirely unnecessary for him to put the graven image on the wall for all to see.

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