The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist group, is targeting American cities for expressing religious ideas in public.
One of these cities is Coronado, a resort town in California that is removing a city-owned church directory sign after receiving a complaint from the FFRF foundation.
The FFRF letter said the sign “raises serious constitutional concerns under the establishment clause of the First Amendment.” According to the Constitution, the establishment clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.”
The sign in question is a wooden directory listing 10 local Christian churches and has stood in the city for decades.
The FFRF was especially concerned that the sign only has Christian churches and doesn’t include any other religious or philanthropic organizations.
To avoid any potential legal challenges from the atheist organization, Mayor Richard Bailey announced the city’s decision to take down the sign and replace it with another one that includes other organizations.
“The City will remove the sign at Sixth and Orange Avenue in Spreckels Park as a part of the project. The Coronado Council of Churches is aware this is occurring, and they support the City’s efforts. This redesign will ensure our signage is informative and representative by incorporating our community’s civic, social, faith-based and philanthropic organizations. I understand this is a sensitive topic, however, a new directory/signage will be reinstalled after this project is complete and it will be inclusive of all organizations, including our faith-based ones,” he wrote.
The FFRF applauded Bailey’s decision.
“We appreciate that the city’s decision shows respect for all of its citizens — religious and nonreligious — by remaining neutral towards religion,” Liz Cavell, the FFRF lawyer said in a statement. “
Another city the FFRF has targeted is Findlay, Ohio, which has a biblically-themed mural on a municipal building. The mural includes a picture of an eagles with the words “Under His Wings Shall You Find Refuge Psalms 91.”
The FFRF sent a cease and desist letter to the city, threatening to sue it over the “unconstitutional” wall art “conveys government support for religion.”
This time, the city is fighting back and refuses to remove the mural.
“Maybe the Atheist Club in Madison, Wisconsin, has nothing better to worry about but our mural in Findlay. But our community is strong because we have belief,” Findlay Mayor Lydia Mahalik said in a statement. “We believe in a power greater than ourselves that promises a brighter day is ahead despite our individual struggles.”
“In our community we have many people who practice many faiths and believe many things. I celebrate those elements of my community and refuse to apologize for it,” the statement continued.
This comes just a month after the FFRF turned their focus to an Indiana school district for allowing pastors to hold a leadership program on campus during lunch.
First Liberty Institute, a legal organization that protects religious freedom, says the FFRF is purposely targeting any nod to religion in the public sphere.
“For decades now, FFRF and others have been on a search and destroy mission to eradicate even the most modest references to generic sayings from the Bible,” Hiram Sasser, General Counsel to First Liberty, told Fox News. “As the Supreme Court said in 1867, ‘The Constitution deals with substance, not shadows.'”