Atheist Takes City to Court Over Seal with Cross


Rob Sherman is an atheist. Any time he sees a reference to religion, mostly the Christian religion, he springs into action. This time his action is directed against the city of Zion, Ill., for using a banned version of the city seal that displays the design Zion’s evangelical founder selected, a banner with the words “God Reigns” surrounded by images of a dove, a cross, a sword, and a crown. You can read a history of the city and the meaning of the seal here.

“In 1991, a U.S. appellate court held that the city seal violated the principle of separation of church and state and that the Christian symbols must be removed. The ruling concerned a 1987 lawsuit against the seal by the Illinois chapter of American Atheists, which was then led by Sherman, a Buffalo Grove resident.”

The ruling is nonsense. There is no violation of the First Amendment since Congress had nothing to do with the establishment of the city or the design of the seal. The First Amendment is clear: “Congress shall make no law . . . .” Since Congress didn’t make any law, there is no violation. The First Amendment was implemented by the states to protect them from federal intrusion on state issues related to religion. Furthermore, states have a constitutional right to ignore decisions that are unconstitutional. The Tenth Amendment gives them this right: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” It’s time that states stand up to federal intrusion on what are purely state concerns.

Similar atheist and court actions have been going on for some time rid our nation, in the devilish spirit of 1984, the memory of America’s rich Christian heritage.

  • The city seal of Los Angeles was changed because it contained a small cross in one of its seven panels.
  • The town of Oak Park, Illinois, blocked a private Catholic hospital from erecting a cross on its own smokestack because, city councilors say, some local residents would be offended.
  • In Idaho, the ACLU sued to remove religious references from public monuments and memorials.

“Three Christian crosses that stood on state property next to a scenic overlook in north San Diego County for decades were removed by California Department of Transportation workers. . . .” Do you see the irony? The county of San Diego? When translated into English San Diego would read Saint James.

The official emblem of the city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, is adorned with three crosses. A few years ago, a federal lawsuit alleged the crosses, which are religious symbols, are unconstitutional because they appear on public property. “The crosses serve no governmental purpose other than to disenfranchise and discredit non-Christian citizens,” said the lawsuit filed by Paul F. Weinbaum, a member of the recently formed local chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who lives in the Las Cruces area, and Martin J. Boyd of Las Cruces. For those not familiar with Spanish, “Las Cruces” means “the crosses.” So it seems rather appropriate that crosses would appear on an emblem that describes the city’s name. In his book Las Cruces New Mexico, 1849–1999: Multicultural Crossroads, author Gordon Owen cited several stories about travelers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who were attacked and killed near the Rio Grande. The crosses marking their graves led city founders to adopt the name.

If the presence of three crosses on a city seal is constitutionally prohibited, then the city’s name should be changed as well. And let’s not stop with Las Cruces. Santa Fe, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Bethel (“house of God”), Corpus Christi (“body of Christ”), St. Louis, Providence,  Bethlehem, PA (“house of bread,” the city where Jesus was born), and so many others should have to change. Parishes of Louisiana have names like Assumption, Ascension, and St. John the Baptist. A county in Illinois is named Christian.

American towns, cities, and counties commonly incorporate the subject matter of their name into their seals and flags. For example, the seal of Columbus, Ohio, predictably depicts one of Christopher Columbus’s vessels (the otherwise nondescript sailing vessel is identified as such by a red Latin cross on the mainsail.1

Then there are all fifty state constitutions that make reference to God or providence in their preambles. Let’s not forget the Declaration of Independence and its insistence that rights are an endowment of the Creator. The Constitution itself references Jesus Christ in its closing statement: “DONE in the year of our Lord. . . .”

The day may come when America, as an officially atheistic nation, decides to be consistent with its anti-God dogmatism perpetrated by dishonest lawyers in the name of the mythical “separation of church and state” dogma. If this ever happens, the restraining moral worldview of Christianity will no longer be around to stop tyrants who seek power for power’s sake. Not even atheists will be safe from immoral marauders.

  1. Paul F. Weinbaum; Martin J. Boyd vs. The City of Las Cruces, New Mexico (2008), page 28, note 18. []
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