Thursday, January 15, 2015

#NewsBham- Alabama ACLU Calls on Winfield Leaders to Rescind "One City Under God" Proclamation

In a letter to Mayor Price and the Winfield City Council the legal director of The Alabama ACLU calls on the city leaders to rescind the "One City Under God" proclamation. 

"Dear Mayor Price and members of the City Council: 

 "Please be advised that the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama has received complaints from City of Winfield residents concerning the enactment of a resolution acknowledging God as “the owner of the City of Winfield and that it is a City under God,” as well as other proclamations intertwining the City with religious beliefs. The full resolution states:

Whereas we acknowledge God is the owner of the City of Winfield and that it is a City under God. We acknowledge that at all times, He is in control.  

Whereas, we acknowledge that through His leadership, the Mayor and City Council will seek his wisdom and knowledge to be good stewards of the city.  

Whereas, we acknowledge that though prayer, with His guidance and presence, that we will be able to trust that no problem will be too large or too small to overcome.  

Whereas, we acknowledge that the City of Winfield is where it is today because of God’s grace and mercy.  

Whereas, we acknowledge that at all times and in all circumstances, His will shall be done.  

Whereas, we acknowledge that to God be the glory.   

"As public officials sworn to uphold and defend the United States Constitution, I am sure that you are aware that the First Amendment prohibits government from taking any action toward establishment of  religion. The Constitution protects private assertions of faith, but absolutely prohibits government involvement in those same matters. That prohibition extends both to religion in general and to particular belief systems such as Christianity. That the resolution is generic does not matter. Such actions are not inclusive or welcoming of people of all faiths and beliefs and is bad policy. City government should remain neutral on matters of religion. 

 "Our concern is that the resolution has all the appearances of a government act whether or not it has any effect in law. The resolution is an official action of the City. This matter has attracted a great deal of press attention and damage has certainly been done to the principle of separation of Church and State. We believe that remedial measures are required and call upon the City of Winfield to take formal action to rescind the resolution by separate resolution of the City Council.  

 "I strongly recommend that you turn this matter over to your legal counsel and that the City promptly take corrective action."  

- Randall C. Marshall
   Legal Director (ACLU of Alabama)

According to a local source who sent us several transcripts, the mayor responded in an interview and The Journal Register published an editorial titled "The Gospel Truth," further supporting the proclamation.

"It seems nothing can stir up passions more than God. And it is getting stirred up pretty good here in Marion County." the editorial in The Journal Record starts out. 

The editorial mentions several blogs which have picked up this story and decries the wording and tenor of those stories as falsely representative of the proclamation. The paper also further defends the proclamation as representative of the spirit of The Constitution.  

"In all seriousness, we have to point out that freedom of religion is still in the Constitution. There are not many Muslims, Jews, Hindu and the like in Winfield or Marion County, but they are protected and welcome to practice their religion as they like here. That is what people came to this country for. We do not have a state church and never will. And if one doesn’t want to believe in God, they are protected, too. But it is a nation founded on Christian principles and concepts, and that is even reflected on our coins and dollar bills. But outside of a few reminders--a prayer to start a meeting, a motto on a coin, a public Christmas decoration-- we don’t force a way of life on anyone.

" Truthfully, the pushback against religion in public life--a demonstration that has been token at best, especially in recent years--has taken to the ridiculous and the insulting, as much of the political correctness that seems to be all around us. We think people in general are getting tired of it.

"It was an unusual way, enough that it was news. Would we have done it this way? Maybe not. Was the resolution necessary for the conduct of government? Not at all. Could it be overdone to the point of pandering to the public? See Roy Moore for that answer."

After further hyperbole, the editorial goes on with a direct response to "The atheists." 

"The atheists would probably do well to wait. There seems to be a rise in this country in the number of people who are not concerned with religion or church, as well as those who do not believe in God. Maybe one day, as is said to be the case in Europe, a growing number of our churches will be museums or other renovated spaces.

 "However, our value system in small-town Alabama is quite different. Mind you, this sort of action can be used to the extreme by either side of the argument, and we fear that is what is going to take place now. Bigger issues should be concentrated on instead of making a big religious war, which, frankly, the atheists appear to want to start.

"In the end, we would not change our first editorial--except maybe to say that if God is really to be pleased, He would not be so much concerned about whether He owns a city as whether the individuals there take faith and ownership of His Kingdom and the work that results. That would lead to feeding the poor, tending to the widows, finding homes for the needy, assisting single mothers with children, providing a decent wage for workers, providing medical assistance to the needy. It is nice to pass a resolution, but the individual heartbased work of Christ should be more our priority and our greater witness for Him. As Marley told Scrooge, mankind is our business."

-Journal Register Editorial (via:anonymous local source)

In general, the editorial continues with a defense of Christianity and the reasons Christ's teachings are good for society.    

According to an email sent to Underbelly Ham here are some quotes from Mayor Price in his interview with The Journal Record. The resident of Winfield is currently choosing to remain anonymous out of concern for his family and possible repercussions.  

"People do not understand the point of this issue."

"This is not about any level of government sponsoring a religion. I would not be for a government in our country endorsing any religion, even Christianity. This is simply a way for our community to say we are grateful for the blessings we have enjoyed and we also acknowledge that all things do belong to God."

He referenced the fact that the resolution was the council's effort to respond to the chaos now prevalent in society, citing the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and the shooting of New York City police officers. 

"From the start of this great nation, our forefathers tried to build a nation on Christian principles. I am not saying any of them wanted the government to pick our religion, but that was the basic morals of what was right and wrong were based on the Scriptures. We need to return to basic human decency and try to live by the rules of the good book."

"This old world will only continue to be as bad as it is, if some of the people in this country do not begin to stand up for what is right."

"Too many times we all want to wait for someone else to take a stand. But we have to realize each of us can try to do something. I am not trying to push my faith on anybody, but I do believe we must stop and do something or this world will never be any better. Do I regret taking this action? No."

"Never have I said every person living in winfield must be a Christian has some emails have suggested. Never what I say that."

"I realize not everyone is a Christian and that is certainly there right. I support the right to choose their fate or do have no faith. That is not what this is about. This is simply trying to acknowledge the gifts we have been provided as a city. Nor am I out here trying to push any denomination in the Christian faith. This is about being grateful for what we have and acknowledging the source of those gifts."

"Others noted that God owns the universe so he had already on our city, but they are missing the point. I am disappointed folks cannot see the point of why the action was taken. God has been taken out of everything. It is a given that He is God of the universe, but we want to acknowledge that our town realizes and acknowledges that God is still in control and that we need His leadership and guidance."
"Despite what some have said, our having the courage to acknowledge God's blessings on this city does not mean that non-Christians are not welcome in our city. We already have a lot of people who live here who are not Christians in some form or fashion. And we are glad they have chosen to live here as many of them are our friends. But this was just to say we are grateful for what we have."

Update: (1/15/15 12:46pm)-

Taken from The Journal Ledger:  
Saturday’s Journal Record.

• For the benefit of the atheists upset about the Winfield resolution on God: Please look up Romans 1:16 and you will see where I stand. Thank you very much. Oh, and when you come to town to file all those lawsuits you are threatening, please stop and eat and buy gas so we can make some money off of you.