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.