Kansas Mayor: We Would Have Kept the Cross on Our City Seal, but We Knew We Would Lose the Legal Battle

This used to be the official seal for the city of Buhler, Kansas:

How offensive is that?! I can’t believe a city in Kansas would dare to support “progressive ideas”…

Oh, and there’s a giant cross on there, too.

Back in September, the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote to the town’s mayor, Daniel Friesen, politely urging the city (PDF) to discontinue its use of the seal:

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. Courts addressing less prominent depictions have found that the inclusion of the Latin cross among other symbols on government seals and logos violates the Establishment Clause.

Mayor Friesen tried to fight back. He even contacted several law firms in the area to get their take on it.

Turns out they all told him the same thing: FFRF was right; the seal was illegal.

“Sure, people know me around town and I’m not one to back down from an issue but we looked at this with level heads and the bottom line was if we would fight it, we’d be wasting tax payer money,” says the mayor.

The city will re-design the city seal and remove the cross from city property in the next 2 to 3 months.

It’s tempting to buy into the “tradition” argument — the seal was in place for over twenty years and no one said anything until now — but I’m not swayed by it. This is Kansas, where critical thought goes to die and Rick Santorum goes to win primaries. It very likely would have been a lonely fight.

Now, the city will just have to design a seal that’s inclusive of all of its residents, not just the Christian ones.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Meh

    That seal is hideous anyway. From the photo it looks like ‘traditional values’ are represented by a blob.

    Maybe they can use some of the money they saved by not going to court on a graphic designer!

    • Pedro Lemos

      And from a first glance, I could swear that “progressive idea” was a vulva…

      Well, at least it would really be a progressive seal…

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      What the hell is that? “Traditional Values” looks like a long seven-toothed gear rolling over a hapless man futilely trying to stop it from crushing him. It needs a little cartoon bubble over him saying “AIEEE!”

      “Progressive Ideas” seems to be either a road leading toward a rising sun, or eight spermatozoa converging on an ovum at the end of a cervical canal. 

      Maybe they got the two pictures mixed up.

  • Nope

    they don’t have to design an inclusive symbol at all; just a secular one.

  • jose

    In other words:
    we would have used institutional power to impose our personal beliefs on the public, but we knew religious freedom would prevail.

  • http://www.facebook.com/darren.nolen Darren Nolen

    It is a shame, too. Kansas was once a ”Hotbed of liberal populism”.

    I could still see bits of this, growing up in Lawrence, a town formed by immigrants from Massachussetts attempting to block the pro-slavery state colonization attempts following the Dred-Scott decision.

    • Blasphemous_Kansan

      Woo hoo, fellow Lawrencians unite!!!

      Go Jayhawks!
      Good to see a secular victory in this state from somewhere that isn’t Lawrence.  Now if we could just do something about the 5 or 6 tax-exempt threats of hellfire and damnation to which I am exposed as I pass churches on the way to my folk’s house.

      Baby steps…..

  • Sue Blue

    If no one in town finds the unconstitutional nature of the seal upsetting, you’d think at least one God-fearin’ townie would object to it for the reason that it’s just friggin’ butt-ugly and is a visual affront to both God and man. Why is it that along with Christianity comes a complete lack of aesthetic sense?

    • The Other Weirdo

       That’s a bit ironic, isn’t it, given that atheistic billboards are routinely criticized for being fugly?

      • OregoniAn

        So the truth finally comes out.. The dude who designs all the atheist billboards lives in Buhler, Kansas – and he’s moonlighting for the Christians!

        • WildRumpus67

          That would explain a lot…

  • A3Kr0n

    Traditional values / Progressive ideas?
    To me that sounds like an oxymoron.

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      Very strange, particularly since “traditional values” is typically Christian code for “anti-gay.”

  • Jennifer

    Kansas, where critical thought goes to die. Priceless!

  • pagansister

    That sign is just butt ugly!   Glad the Mayor “saw the light” and is planning to remove said sign and hopefully get a much better design on the new one—which, of course, will have the Christian cross totally NOT on it.   That’s one small step for religious freedom, in a state where that is hard to come by. 

  • Marco Conti

    Here you go. I fixed it for them

    • Sindigo

      Beat me to it! Awesome.

  • C Peterson

    I guess that’s like, “I could have kept robbing banks, but I knew I’d lose the legal battle.”

  • Annie

    The population of Buhler is 1,327 people, 98.1% of which is white.  Anyone in the area know if this was/is a Sundown town?  It certainly has several of the characteristics of one.

  • Garyspenceresq

    Very sad commentary and clear evidence of human ignorance. Specifically, it is not difficult to mentally overpower the weak cognitive ability of an atheist. God, however, can do anything. Thus, I shall freely pray for the less fortunate.

    • Isilzha

      You mean the ignorance of people like you who fail to understand that government must represent everyone and symbols like that necessarily excludes citizens who live under that government.

      Try to expand your mind just a bit and image how you would perceive an Islamic or even Communist symbol in place of that cross.

    • RobertoTheChi

      Very sad that you can’t grasp the concept of separation of church and state.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Porter/100001075278352 Ben Porter

       hes a troll let it go

  • Isilzha

    It looks like traditional values may be represented with a red hammer and sickle.

  • Good and Godless

    Should read
    “Our Second Millennia Without Progress”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Porter/100001075278352 Ben Porter

    I live in Kansas we actually have a decent size and ever growing freethinker population. You know when they say atheist come off as standoffish or that they have a superiority complex some of this is what they are referring to. I find it rather rude to imply that Kansas is a completely backwards place. Sure we have our issues, but remember every state has republican voters not just us. Remember guys we grow your food, and we design your planes. Were not idiots, some of us are just a little confused.

    • allein

      I have a transgender friend in Kansas who has found her workplace quite supportive of her rights and even asked her to work with them on setting guidelines for future employees in her situation (and she works in a job where you wouldn’t necessarily expect that no matter what state you were in; in fact, you would probably expect the opposite). So Kansas is definitely not entirely backwards.

    • A. Oz

       I feel the same way. I’m from Kansas (don’t live there currently) and I was always able to surround myself with really liberal minded folks. I get where you’re coming from, but saying rational though dies there just sort of writes of the place as not worth fighting for, when clearly it is.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Porter/100001075278352 Ben Porter

         Kansas has a very liberal history. It went to the republicans when we had Dwight Eisenhower the only president to come from kansas. He stood for a high minimum wage, walfare, and high taxes on the Rich. The Republican party really went downhill from Nixon on. People seem to ignore what the republican party used to stand for. Unfortunately religion took over the party, and people are one minded.  

  • Sindigo

    20 years can’t be considered a tradition, surely.

  • SeekerLancer

    I’m certainly not tempted by the “tradition” argument. I’m incredibly tired of it, especially this time of year with the “war on Christmas” in full swing it seems like the only ammo they have.

  • Megan

    Buhler is small town founded by a ethnic group that came to the US for religious reasons – primarily to ensure that automatic conscription would not enforced.   The town truly does have a strong religious history, but the seal was not created to offend non-Christians (in that area, really, there hardly would be any non-Christians to offend).  The mayor is being responsible by making a change to the sign, as it was just recently brought to his attention that someone was offended by the sign and that the sign would not pass a legal review.

    There’s no need to make fun of Kansas, or assume that Buhler is a backwards place intending to make all atheist uncomfortable by showing a cross to them – it’s just an old, religious town with a seal that truly does describe the area.  And again, the change is being made.

  • JustWondering

    Christians will be silenced from all public expression!

    THEN…

    You can start to take their kids from them for the child abuse of teaching the children  their religion. (After all, if raising a child in a religion is abuse, as Dawkins claims, then how can you allow that to go on!)