Precinct 333

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Bible-Banner Whines About The Heat

But she'd better get used to it -- it will be warmer where she's headed.

Apparently you are not permitted to disagree with Kay Staley -- at least not if you are a Christian. According to her, the estimated 40 letters, 50 phone calls and several e-mails she claims to have received are somehow unchristian because of their angry tone. I guess that she, indignant about a small memorial to Houston philanthropist William S. Mosher, is the only one allowed to become upset over something they find offensive.

Why is Staley upset? Because the memorial, erected outside the Harris County Civil Courts Building at the expense of Star of Hope Mission in 1956 and refurbished with private funds in 1995, contains a Bible. She wants that book banned from county property on the basis of the extra-constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state. She also claims that she is discriminated against because the book doesn't represent her beliefs -- and that it also discriminates against the majority of Christians because the Bible doesn't represent their beliefs, either!

It sounds to me like US District Court Judge Sim Lake is looking at the right questions, as he has asked the attornies for both sides to brief him on the following issues.
•If the monument has both secular and religious purposes, does it pass constitutional muster by only showing that it has a secular purpose?
•Should he consider only the original purpose of the monument or the purpose it had since the monument was refurbished?
•Should he consider oral statements made at the dedication? This is a reference to religious statements made at the 1996 dedication.
•Should he consider the community understanding of the monument or only the described purpose of the monument?

Interestingly enough, I spent two weeks in that building last month when I did jury duty. My observation of it is that the monument is unobtrusive, standing about four feet high. It is rectangular, maybe 30 inches by 18 inches. Had I not known what it was there, I probably would not have noticed it. It clearly identifies both the donor and the honoree. I genuinely believe that if this monument is ordered away, that the eventual outcome will be the exclusion of any religious reference in any public place -- effectively establishing atheism as the official religion of the United States. It may be, as Justice Thomas indicated in the recent Pledge of Allegiance case, time to reexamine a half century or more of Establishment Clause jurisprudence on the basis of the unintended consequences of those decisions.


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