The mayor of the a California city has announced that a historic, city-owned church directory sign will be removed following mounting complaints from atheists. But the local resident behind the original complaint has said that he never asked for the sign to be removed.
“My whole problem was just one word: church,” said complainant Ryan Meoni, as reported by the LA Times. “I never pushed for the sign to be taken down.”
Nevertheless, Coronado mayor Richard Bailey has since announced that the sign, which points the public toward various different local churches, will be removed. “I understand this is a sensitive topic; however, a new directory/signage will be reinstalled after this project is complete and it will be inclusive of all organizations, including our faith-based ones,” Bailey wrote in a Facebook post announcing his decision.
The city was contacted by the infamous Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), who sent Coronado a letter about the church directory shortly after Meoni reached out to them. The letter states that Coronado’s church directory “raises serious constitutional concerns under the Establishment Clause.” Because the sign lists only Christian churches, FFRF argues that it could appear the city prefers Christianity over other religions.
Attorney Charles LiMandri, who has represented San Diego in a similar case, was baffled by the city’s decision to remove the cross. “I’m not sure at this point why they need to do anything,” he said, before adding that “removing it could be a violation by showing hostility toward a religion.”
Steven Smith, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, believes that the city was right to remove the sign, due to the directory displaying churches exclusively.
“This is a very subjective and fact-specific doctrine, and it’s hard to predict the outcome of particular cases,” Smith said. “But a sign listing churches along with other organizations is surely less vulnerable than one that lists only churches, so it seems that the city has acted in a prudent way.”
“I think we’re just getting further from faith,” said Veleria Fabiszak, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Church in Coronado, as reported by NBC San Diego. “ I would want to hold on to that sign to show…that we’re not getting rid all of our values.”