There’s still 156 shopping days until Christmas, but that’s not stopping our friends at the ACLU from beginning its yearly clampdown on freedom of religious expression. Latest target: City of Plantation, FL. The absurdity of all this is clearly described in the Sun-Sentinel article:
Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus have no business posing in a public park — even if they’re accompanied by a Hanukkah menorah.
“Inappropriate” is the word the Broward chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union uses to describe the holiday display planned for Liberty Tree Park.
The ACLU, in a letter to city officials, warned that displaying a Nativity scene and menorah violates the separation of church and state. The problem, the rights group said, is that the city is advocating for two religions while ignoring all the others.
“We feel it’s a violation of the First Amendment and an endorsement of religion,” said the ACLU’s Barry Butin. “If they were really neutral and didn’t favor one over the other, they’d have a more inclusive display: Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist.”
The ACLU has already warned Plantation — twice — against setting up religious displays. It was acting on a complaint from an unidentified board member who doesn’t live in Plantation but photographed the creche and menorah one Christmastime.
“We trust that the city will uphold religious freedom and refrain from any further displays on city property,” Broward chapter president Brad Koogler wrote last month.
The group’s original letter, in March, was met with a terse two-sentence reply. Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic simply said the city would “take it under advisement.”
In deciding to display both Christian and Jewish symbols, Plantation relied on a 1984 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said cities can exhibit religious elements if they don’t endorse one faith over another.
However, Butin said, “That doesn’t mean we can’t advocate for a change.”
Of course, Mr. Butin. You can advocate for whatever you want. Just don’t trample on our rights, OK?
Rabbi Sheldon Harr of Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plantation said the city should just spare itself the trouble by staying out of the religious display business altogether.
“Why create the havoc?” he said. “Why create the division within the community?”
Unfortunately, when religious leaders such as Rabbi Marr are too chicken to stand up against this violation of our rights, half to three-quarters of the battle is lost.
Spirited debate is expected during public comment sessions at budget hearings set for 5 p.m. Aug. 25 and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 and Sept. 21.
Anyone reading this from Plantation who believes in our right to free religious expression…please show up at the meetings and make your voice heard!