A friend posted this news item from the Steubenville, Ohio Herald-Star on her Facebook page, along with what I think is a remarkably restrained amount of dudgeon:
STEUBENVILLE – City officials agreed Tuesday night to change the city logo after a Madison, Wis., organization threatened legal action.
Law Director S. Gary Repella announced the decision following a 15-minute closed-door meeting with City Council members.
“We will be approaching Mark Nelson of Nelson Fine Art and Gifts and asking him to redesign the city logo to remove the cross and silhouette of the Christ the King Chapel on the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus.,” said Repella.
“We were contacted in May by the Freedom from Religion Foundation Inc. in Madison, Wis., who said one of our citizens had complained about the city logo. During the past several months the foundation sent me their research and past case law regarding religious symbols. I researched current case law and found a lot of case laws that do not allow religious symbols in government symbols,” continued Repella.
We have discussed the issue with City Council and we will ask Mark Nelson to design a silhouette of another building such as the library or a dormitory for the city logo. The council realizes the potential cost to our city taxpayers may be very expensive to try to win the case,” added Repella.
Forget that the silhouette of the Franciscan University chapel with its hideously offensive cross, one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, makes up only about a quarter of the city’s logo, or that the University is one of the city’s biggest employers and contributors to the local economy. Budgets are tight, and it’s cheaper, they think, to knuckle under to bullies than to defend the lawsuits the bullies are using instead of brass knuckles these days.
I’m a lot less polite than my friend, and my dudgeon is considerably higher. I think the Steubenville City Council didn’t take time to do their due diligence. If they had done the five minutes of Googling I did, they might have found that cities like Salt Lake City, Utah have no problem at all incorporating recognizably religious architecture into their official seals: Salt Lake City’s seal is entirely taken up by a representation of the Mormon Tabernacle. [Update: A source has informed me I’m mistaken here. Salt Lake City’s seal features the City and County Bldg, which was purposely designed by non-Mormons to be a secular version of the Tabernacle, complete with soaring tower topped by a statue of the secular goddess Columbia in place of the Angel Moroni. There are still religious echoes here, and in many other city and state symbols.] The seal of the city of San Antonio, TX is crowned by a representation of the Alamo—or Mission San Antonio de Valero, to give it its baptismal name. San Diego, CA incorporates the mission bell into its city seal to evoke the role played in the city’s founding by Franciscan missionaries. The mission bell also appears as a symbol up and down California’s Highway 101, the path traveled by Franciscan Padre Junipero Serra.Other cities don’t hesitate to incorporate religious images. Las Cruces, New Mexico’s city logo features, not surprisingly, obviously Christian crosses. Salem, Massachusetts recently spent a boatload of bucks retooling its city signage—including police cars and police badges—to include a witch on a broomstick, and proudly calls itself The Witch City. Yoohoo, Freedom from Religion Foundation! Wicca is a religion.
This asinine and juvenile movement to scrub the US of every vestige of religion’s contributions to history and culture will, I hope, collapse in itself eventually. One can only (ssssssssh!) pray, anyway. But in the meantime, even though I hate giving those bozos ideas, let me just suggest what we lose if we wipe religion off the map:
—Thousands of place names rooted in religion: from St Augustine, FL, the nation’s oldest city, to Alaska’s Archangel Valley; the litany of saints that is California alone (San Francisco, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, San Gabriel, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, San Diego [whose feast day is today]), not to mention the City of Our Lady herself, Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles), not to mention St Paul, MN, St Louis, MO, etc, etc; the biblical names, from both Testaments (Salem, Zion, Bethlehem, Bethany); the names honored in Mormon tradition (Manti, Nephi, Lehi); the names associated with the gods and goddesses of classical Greece and Rome, and those that reflect the indigenous spiritualities of Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.
—Sports teams like the Angels, Padres, Saints (these are already becoming the Aints for a day in response to a challenge from atheists), Blue Devils, Demon Deacons, and more.
—Historical landmarks promoted by state tourism departments, like the California Missions, the Alamo, the Mormon Tabernacle, New York’s Central Synagogue, the onion-domed Russian Orthodox churches of the Pacific Northwest.
If the citizens (of all faiths and none) and fans of and visitors to all these deeply ingrained parts of American life brushed with religion would simply stand up to the bullies from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, this particular manifestation of nonsense could be stifled overnight.
But just in case nobody cares, be prepared for a future in which every place in the country is known, like NY public schools, by a nice bland inoffensive number. In which case I’ll be relocating—to St Petersburg, Russia, or Saint-Tropez, France, or Athens, Greece, or . . . . Well, you get it.
If only the Steubenville City Council would.
Updated: This struck a chord with (or dropped a whole piano on) Deacon Greg Kandra, who picks up the dudgeon and runs with it down the Mississippi to Louisiana, brilliantly.
Update 2: Franciscan University of Steubenville supplies a classy response (h/t Elizabeth Scalia), refusing to let the city substitute a dorm for their landmark chapel.