Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Remember over the Christmas holiday season when an adult Sunday School class from Bartow's First Baptist Church decided to place a religious display on the lawn of the Neil Combee County Administration Building? It caused a bit of controversy and a couple of humourous (at least attempting such) displays which were placed next to the Baptists' manger scene.

It seems that they want to do it again, for Easter. The church's pastor and County Commissioner Randy Wilkenson were guests on right wing talker Lynne Breidenbach's radio show Monday afternoon. The pastor said that the display the class wants to place on the county lawn consists of a wooden cross with a purple sash draped across the cross arms. And Wilkenson said that he would be in favour of having groups wishing to place displays on what the County Commission designates as a "Free Speech Zone" pay costs for insurance to protect the county against damages, as well as an "application fee".

Time to get on the soapbox:

The nearly half million citizens of Polk County represent dozens of religions: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and many others, as well as agnostics and atheists. Many of our beliefs share the same basic moral tenets, although we may differ on some of the details. And we have every right to practice our beliefs --- whatever they may be --- as we see fit as guaranteed by the Constitution.

Friends, government facilities should be religion neutral.

Government --- and by extension, the facilities where government services are provided --- should represent all the people, not only a segment...even if that segment is in the majority. They should be places where any citizen, regardless of his or her beliefs, can conduct business without being confronted with a display which gives the appearance of government favouring one religion over all others. All people should feel welcome in "their house".

If the Sunday School class wants to put up a display, they should consider placing up in the front lawn of their church. That would be a much more appropriate place, and their message would still be seen.


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