Precinct 333

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

City Recalls Pledge-Sitter

The people of Estes Park, Colorado, have recalled a city councilman who refused to stand for or say the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of council meetings. The final vote tally was 905-603.

Habecker has been a trustee for 12 years, but the issue didn't arise until last year when the town board began reciting the Pledge before meetings. Habecker chose to sit out these sessions, calling the "under God" clause unconstitutional.

The recall election was original scheduled for Feb. 15, but Habecker went to court and had it blocked. Earlier this month, a federal judge lifted the injunction.

"I don't think it's a sad day for me," said Habecker after the votes were counted. "I stood ...or sat.for what I believed in and I still believe that way and the vote of the town of Estes Park isn't going to change my mind."

Habecker said he still plans to attend board meetings and express his opinions. He says he'll probably file a lawsuit over the outcome, claiming he's being denied his "political capacity" because of his religious beliefs.

"What it means is that the people have a voice in their government and that's what the state statute was set up for," said Richard Clark, the recall organizer.

Now I have to tell you that while I understand and agree with the ide of getting him off the council I find the whole situation unsettling. I don’t dispute that Habecker has every right to refuse to stand for or say the pledge. If this were a regularly scheduled election, I know I would vote against him if he disclosed his objection to standing for the pledge. But I don’t know that I would vote to recall him over this issue, preferring instead to wait for his term to end. The reason is simple – Habecker is already threatening to sue over the recall, and it is possible that some judge could find a religious freedom violation in the recall. Waiting for the term to end would eliminate that option, because there is no way that he could challenge a general election.


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