About a month ago, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Henderson County (TN) Mayor Dan Hughes concerning a religious etching in the walls of the local courthouse.
Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne:
Mercy and truth shall go before thy face.
FFRF Attorney Rebecca Markert was clear about the implications of that verse:
The verse alludes to the throne of a Judeo-Christian god, and it is embedded into the walls of the courthouse, the seat of government. This perpetuates the myth that our law is based on biblical principles, and it sends the message to private citizens with business at the courthouse that the justice they seek will be decided based on religion.
Hughes’ response? None of that should matter because there are a lot of Christians in the community.
“I wasn’t expecting anything and had not been contacted about the verse or really believed half the people in county even know the verse is on that side of the cornerstone,” Hughes told WBBJ.
In his reply to FFRF, Hughes noted that most residents of Henderson County believe in God.
“Our community is based on the belief of a true and living God,” he wrote.
That’s… completely irrelevant. Our laws are supposed to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. And pushing Christianity on the entire community is such a clear-cut example of that. This verse is a permanent ode to the Christian God. There’s no legal justification for it. I know if I had to go into this building, my first thought after seeing that verse would be that I have no chance of getting a fair hearing if they know what I think about religion.Hughes wasn’t even done talking. He said he wanted to inscribe a second Bible verse into the wall:
Hughes told WBBJ that he has received nothing but positive feedback regarding his decision. Furthemore, he said he hopes to add an additional verse to the courthouse: Psalm 33:12. That verse says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD: and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.”
That’s not doubling down on Christian privilege. That’s quadrupling down. Because atheists and Muslims and Hindus sure as hell aren’t inheriting much from the Christian God.
I’m sure his statements played well with the people in town, but the FFRF issued a response last week basically telling Hughes to quit playing games before he gets hit with a lawsuit.
Not only is the inscription an unconstitutional promotion of religion, as FFRF’s co-presidents note, but the idea of a throne on which an authoritarian monarchical deity rules betrays the history and heritage of the United States. The bible verse currently enshrined on the courthouse’s wall speaks of God’s throne. This sends the disturbing message that the judicial seat of county government is also the throne of the Judeo-Christian God.
Henderson Country’s decision forsakes our godless Constitution and the ideals of our secular democracy. County officials have an obligation to adhere to the U.S. Constitution. FFRF is requesting, again, that the city remove the religious display from the courthouse and urges Hughes to honor the rights and consciences of all Henderson County residents who come from a variety of faiths and backgrounds.
This is all prelude to something far more serious. And Hughes’ own words are going to bite him in the ass because he’s making it clear that these verses are only there because a Christian majority wants them there. The law prohibits that.
He can have his fun now. But it won’t be amusing when taxpayers have to remove the inscription and foot FFRF’s legal bills.