A federal judge last week ruled that a cross must be removed from the Lehigh County seal in Pennsylvania because it is violates the U.S. Constitution, reported Fox News and several other outlets.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the suit on behalf on four Pennsylvania residents, who claimed the cross was offensive. According to Fox News, U.S. District Judge Edward Smith “made it known in his ruling that he was not happy about the decision he had to make but was following the rule of constitutional law, including the establishment clause, which states that Congress may not pass any laws establishing a religion.”
“It is obvious to me that Judge Smith failed to recognize the truth of the United States Constitution and the historical background of our nation and Lehigh County,” said Gary Dull, executive director of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, a state chapter of the American Pastors Network (APN, www.americanpastorsnetwork.net). “The First Amendment of the Constitution states that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…’ Having a cross in the center of the Lehigh County seal is not in any way ‘establishing’ a religion by county founders, leaders or citizens. Therefore, the opinion of Judge Smith is unconstitutional in that it both prohibits the free exercise of people of faith who historically were and are a part of the county and also fails to recognize the Judeo-Christian heritage upon which our nation, of which Lehigh County is a part, was founded.
“In his own statement, the judge said that ‘the court does not believe the current state of law applicable to this case comports with the text of the Establishment Clause,’ and so in the mind of any sensible person, that ends the argument,” added Dull, who is the senior pastor at Faith Baptist Church of Altoona in Blair County. “For the judge to then rule in favor of the plaintiffs is an act of twisting the wording of the First Amendment in an effort to make it say what it does not according to original intent. The citizens of Lehigh County, whether they are religious or not, must stand up for constitutional law if indeed the integrity of the court system is to remain in compliance with the law of the land. America is a nation of law based upon a Constitution that has lasted for nearly two and half centuries and is not based on the whims and opinions of individual citizens. The best thing any judge or citizen can do to maintain the strength of our country is to follow the law of the Constitution, interpret it accordingly and refuse to allow personal opinion, politics, philosophy, desire or pressure from those who oppose the basic principles of our nation to take away from what America has been about from the time of its founding.”
Judge Smith wrote in his ruling that “While the court does not believe the current state of the law applicable to this case comports with the text of the Establishment Clause, the court is not in a position to reject it. The law, as it currently stands, requires that the court rule in favor of the plaintiffs: the inclusion of the cross lacked a secular purpose both when the defendant adopted the seal and when the defendant refused to remove the cross from the seal, and a reasonable observer would perceive the seal as endorsing Christianity.”
Lehigh County will now have to redesign the seal, in use since 1944, which includes a Latin cross near the center, as well as a heart, bison, silos and other imagery. The seal appears on flags, buildings, letterhead and legal documents, as well as the county website.
APN President Sam Rohrer also spoke with WFMZ-TV in eastern Pennsylvania about the ruling. View here.