Citizens in Buhler, Kansas, have a new city seal to look forward to — however, many are less-than-content over the situation surrounding the re-brand. Following the threat of a lawsuit from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist non-profit, officials are being forced to redesign the seal and replace a large sign that is currently posted in a local park.
The secular group maintains that both contain a Christian cross — an apparently illegal religious element that they say has no place in public venues. The inclusion of the cross has been a part of the design for the past 24 years, since the city last fine-tuned the image in 1988. However, the FFRF didn’t complain until a more recent image was posted in a city park just four months ago. It was this larger sign — one that made the cross even more prominent — that came to the attention of non-theist activists.
KSNW-TV has more:
In a letter dated Sept. 14, the atheist group, citing an unnamed resident, told officials that the cross violates the Establishment Claus of the Constitution. By default, the FFRF charged that Buhler is endorsing Christianity by allowing the crosses to have such a prominent place on both the seal and sign.
“The endorsement of religion in the Buhler seal is particularly egregious because the cross is prominently featured and used to symbolize the ‘Traditional Values’ portion of the town motto,” the organization’s letter read.
After consulting with legal experts, the city notified residents this past Friday of its decision to comply with the FFRF’s demands. In addition to opinions that seemed to back the ideals behind the atheist complaint, the city noted that it could end up with massive legal fees if officials allow the case to move forward — something that would strain already limited financial resources.
Mayor Daniel Friesen said that the sign is still up, but that decisions regarding a new design will come over the next few months, as the city attempts to comply with the legal opinions it has received. While he told Fox News’ Todd Starnes that Buhler is a “faith-based community,” the tough decision to comply with the FFRF’s demands was made.
“I think the people of Buhler are going to be just as frustrated at the Council and myself,” the mayor admitted. “But one of the reasons we’re trying to get this information out is so people can understand the decision we’re making here. We’re not making them lightly.”
Friesen also said that the city’s decision is not one that many, including himself, want to make. However, based on legalities and the constitution, he said that officials have made the right choice.
“The city of Buhler was founded by immigrants that came here to escape religious persecution,” he added. “The same constitution that brought them here also protects the view of people who may not agree with the values of this community. We have to be acceptant of that.”
According to KSNW-TV, new, faith-based signs will be posted on private land in response to the controversy. And the sign that is being removed will purportedly be relocated across the street from its current location, also on private land.