Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, December 11, 2018
PRESS PHOTO BY SUSAN BRYANT The Lehigh County seal, located in the Government Center conference room, is the subject of a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation telling commissioners to stop using a seal with a cross in it. PRESS PHOTO BY SUSAN BRYANT The Lehigh County seal, located in the Government Center conference room, is the subject of a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation telling commissioners to stop using a seal with a cross in it.

Lehigh County: Board told to change seal

Thursday, March 26, 2015 by DEBRA PALMIERI dpalmieri@tnonline.com in Local News

Lehigh County commissioners are deciding how to handle a letter from Freedom From Religion Foundation telling the board to stop using the county seal due to the Latin cross at the center.

According to information provided by the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, the November 2014 letter to County Executive Tom Muller from FFRF states: "We urge the county to immediately discontinue using this seal and to develop a new seal that is both constitutional and representative of all citizens."

The letter also requested "a written response" detailing steps the county would take to comply with the constitution.

Patrick Elliott, FFRF staff attorney, spoke with The Press March 17.

He said in addition to the November 2014 letter, a follow-up letter was sent Jan. 16 to the county board.

In the first letter, the FFRF states it is a "nationwide nonprofit organization that works to protect the constitutional principle of separation of church and state."

PPN, which describes itself as "a statewide network of pastors committed to providing Bible-based and constitutionally consistent analysis and recommendations on matters of public policy," states: "FFRF's demands show not only open hostility toward Christianity but also gross ignorance of our nation's founding documents."

Lehigh County Board of Commissioners Chairman Brad Osborne emailed The Press March 12.

"Our board went into executive session this evening (March 11) after our public meeting for the purpose of discussing threatened litigation from the Freedom From Religion Foundation," Osborne wrote. "No decision was made. We continue to explore our options and expect to arrive at a decision shortly. That decision will be made in public session.

Sam Rohrer, 2010 Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate and former state representative, is the president of the PPN.

He commented on FFRF and the letter to county commissioners.

"While flying the flag of separation of church and state, FFRF seems to forget the author of this oft-quoted phrase, Thomas Jefferson, himself approved of religious services being held in the United States Capitol building," said Rohrer, also president of the American Pastors Network. "In fact, he even attended them. The truth – and a very inconvenient truth for FFRF – is that from its inception, our nation has recognized the hand of Divine Providence, and our Constitution clearly protects, not prohibits, the freedom to acknowledge and worship God in our public activities and symbols. We urge Lehigh County officials not to cave to these threats but to stand boldly for truth and religious freedom."

PPN is "encouraging all Pennsylvania residents, and particularly those in Lehigh County, to contact the County Board of Commissioners to encourage them to stand for religious freedom and not cave to FFRF's demands."FFRF's threats are not new. The group routinely targets expressions of America's Judeo-Christian heritage within the public arena, seeking to separate entirely religion from American life."