Originally created 05/23/00

Seal suggests Christian 'litmus' test



I write in response to your May 17 editorial titled, "Ready to rumble," regarding the recently filed suit against the Richmond County Superior Court's use of the Ten Commandments on its official emblem.

First, the editorial cites a federal judge's ruling in a challenge to the City of Milledgeville's use of the word "Christianity" in its seal ostensibly as legal support for Richmond County's continued use of its religious image. But that ruling is void: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturned the lower court's decision, and the city eventually agreed to stop using the seal.

Second, the editorial's suggestion that this is a "petty lawsuit" and "mere busywork for American Civil Liberties Union lawyers" is unfounded. Displays of the Ten Commandments have been consistently struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as by federal courts in Georgia and around the country. And the injuries suffered by those of minority faiths and nonbelievers when government endorses religion are real and lasting. As the Court of Appeals explained in the Milledgeville case, the "endorsement of Christianity ... makes the feel like second class citizens. The message communicated by the seal ... is that Christianity is the `litmus test' of being a `true' citizen." The ACLU does its best to resolve matters before filing suit, and gave the county every opportunity to do so here for two years, but cannot allow blatant violations of the Bill of Rights to go untested.

Robert L. Tsai, Atlanta

(Editor's note: The writer is Staff Attorney, ACLU of Georgia Foundation in Atlanta.)