The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has been somewhat quieter than normal these past few months. Chalk it up to a summer slump, vacation schedules or a lack of religious targets to focus upon, but the silence has been notable.
However, in recent days, the atheistic non-profit is back to its regular antics. The group’s new target is Steubenville, Ohio, where atheist leaders are demanding that a religious image present on the city’s official logo be removed.
Last month, officials agreed to alter the logo after the FFRF complained and threatened legal action over the inclusion of the cross and the silhouette of the Christ the King Chapel. The house of worship is present on the campus of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, a local higher education facility.
“Crosses do not belong on the logos of American cities. We are not a ‘Christian nation’ or a theocracy, but were first among nations to adopt a secular constitution wisely separating religion from government,” proclaimed FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
As is typically the case, the city was quick to stand down over the logo, considering the monumental legal fees that it would face if and when the case went to court. But now, in the wake of the controversy, James Bordas Jr., an attorney, has offered to represent the city pro-bono should a FFRF-led lawsuit take form.
“We thought the city was being bullied, perhaps because of lack of funds, into caving to the unlawful demands of an extremist group,” Bordas explained, going on to say that the law office has the money and time to devote to the case, if needed.
The lawyer expects that the case could cost $10,000 to $15,000 to handle and that it will take a plethora of time to sort through. Also, Bordas believes that it will attract the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), among other groups.
Rather than serving as a government endorsement of religion, Bordas claims that the presence of Christ the King Chapel is representative of a landmark that is important to the city of Steubenville.
“I don’t know why (city officials) wouldn’t want to (uphold the unchanged logo in court) when Franciscan University is such a very important part of that community and … a big part of Catholic tradition in this country,” he continued.
The FFRF, though, is sending warnings to the city, telling officials that offers from conservative groups and from Bordas will go unfulfilled.
“Do not be duped by offers from religious right legal groups,” wrote FFRF staff attorney Patrick Elliot, in a letter to the organization. “They may volunteer their time pro bono but they never pick up the plaintiffs’ tab.”
The letter went on to warn officials that “accepting such offers…will put city taxpayers at risk.”
Currently, no answer has been given from Mayor Dominic Mucci and other local leaders, although they are expected to meet soon to discuss Bordas’ proposal.