America's largest legal organization dedicated exclusively to defending religious liberty has joined the fight for a county seal in Pennsylvania.
The official seal of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, contains a number of images, one of them being a cross. The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) believes this violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and obtained a ruling in its favor in November 2017. The issue is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where First Liberty filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing the symbolism is constitutional.
"The inclusion of religious symbols in government seals and flags is consistent with the First Amendment," says First Liberty attorney Roger Byron. "It's also consistent with our nation's long tradition of acknowledging the role of faith in the lives of its citizens."
First Liberty's brief explains that many different faith traditions have been recognized in the same way as the seal in Lehigh County.
"The seal and flag of the state of New Mexico includes Aztec and Zia religious symbolism," says Byron, adding that the Oklahoma seal "contains a mix of Native American and Christian symbols."
Byron adds that many of the cities in the 13 original colonies had seals and flags and names that contain religious references. "So the history in this country of using text or symbols that could also have religious significance goes back a long way," the attorney concludes.
First Liberty also is involved in a related battle over the WWI Veterans Memorial in Bladensburg, Virginia. In that case, the American Humanist Association says the "massive Christian cross on government property" violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of AHA. First Liberty is asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.