As of a week ago, this was the vehicle sticker all cars needed to display in Blue Island, Illinois:
As far as church/state separation goes, this is a low-priority case. But it might raise some eyebrows because a local government is using mandatory vehicle stickers to celebrate a church’s anniversary. The answer to this isn’t necessarily a lawsuit, but the city needs to know what the problem is and why they may be setting themselves up for trouble in the future.
So atheist activist Rob Sherman made a couple presentations to the local city council last month, explaining to them why this endorsement was unconstitutional.
Mayor Donald Peloquin took the advice to heart and issued an Executive Order (PDF) that fixes the current mess. He’s not going to replace these stickers — I’m sure that would be an administrative mess — but he will allow residents to modify them a bit:
I am issuing an Executive Order stating that as long as the 2011-2012 vehicle sticker displays the 2011-2012 year, the city of Blue Island name and the vehicle tag number, the resident will not be ticketed.
I, further issue an order that states in the future the vehicle tag will not display any religious institutions or religious symbols.
Wow. Go Rob! It was the perfect way to handle the situation and it got the response we wanted. Kudos to the mayor for doing the right thing, too. It’s not quite an apology but I think it’s even better — Peloquin is setting a tone that says no further government endorsements of faith will happen on his watch and he’s doing what he can to remedy the current situation.
If only every mayor would handle these situations like Peloquin did…