Archive for Saturday, November 14, 2009

Banner raises questions about church, state separation

November 14, 2009


— A street banner the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce has erected to promote San Clemente is being removed from public property after a local resident questioned whether its image of a Christian cross is compatible with separation of church and state.

The banner depicts a tower at San Clemente Presbyterian Church. The banner says “San Clemente, Love It.”

It’s one of about 80 banners the Chamber of Commerce displays on light poles along San Clemente’s main highway.

Other banners depict beach scenes, a skateboarder and various San Clemente themes.

George Scarborough, San Clemente’s city manager, asked the Chamber of Commerce this week to swap the banner depicting the cross for a different theme after consulting with the city attorney and concluding “there is a potential legal issue.”

Lynn Wood, chief executive of the chamber, said the banner would be removed as soon as possible, though she is saddened by it.

“With what just happened at Fort Hood and the war in Afghanistan and Iraq,” she said, “I think it’s sad that we can be focused on a banner and not looking at the big picture of what’s going on in this world.”

Susan Pierce, a local resident, sent an e-mail to San Clemente Mayor Lori Donchak on Oct. 29 saying she had noticed the banner and that “it seems to be inappropriate on public property.”

“Can public funds be expended for church and religious symbol display?” she asked. “Can public property be used to display a religious symbol or structure?”

Pierce could not be reached for further comment.

Donchak referred the inquiry to the city manager in an e-mail Nov. 1, asking him, “I know this is a chamber initiative, but do you have any thoughts on this one? Do we contribute funds to the banner program?”

The answer is yes. The banner program is part of a $50,000 subsidy the City Council provides the Chamber of Commerce for visitor promotion.

Wood said banners promoting San Clemente have the city’s main highway for five or six years.

“You know, it’s just beautiful pictures of different scenes in San Clemente,” she said. “And that’s a scene of San Clemente.”

Wood said she believes San Clemente was one of the first cities to display these types of banners.

“We get tons of calls on these banners,” she said. “We had different cities calling us and asking how we did it. There’s other cities that it’s catching on with because it’s so pretty and it’s so unique to the town.”

Wood said the banners are popular and that Phil Tessier, who produces the banners for the chamber from photographs, makes miniature versions for people who want copies.

“This is the first time we’ve had someone want us to take something down,” Wood said.


RKLOG 8 years, 5 months ago

Yar but, doesn't 'San' mean saint? I guess it being separated from Clemente makes it ok??

Brent Garner 8 years, 5 months ago

So, therefore, by the logic of the woman complaining, if a city had a famous church to which tourists come, it could not feature that church in any government sponsored publication promoting the city because that would be a "violation" of the separation of church and state? Hasn't this gotten just a wee bit absurd???

BigPrune 8 years, 5 months ago

This sounds like something that would happen in our town.

staff04 8 years, 5 months ago

I was wondering the same thing Brent, albeit sans the emotional silliness your rant.

If the tower is somehow associated with the city as a symbol of the city and not the church, I could see there being some reason the city might want to push the issue. The city probably realized that it's 79 other banners would suffice in lieu of any legitimate (read: constitutional) reason to have the symbol on the banner.

bearded_gnome 8 years, 5 months ago

OMG! well by this logic many dozens of cities need to change their names: St. Francis KS, San Francisco.

or, because of native american animistic beliefs then Buffalo better be changed across the country. Druids: better change the name of tree streets in eudora and north lawrence. Hitites and others: anything ending in "grove" as in Pacific Grove. Maryville or Marysville would be right out obviously. anything Xavior. heck, flying spaghetti monster followers: Hell Michigan [couldn't resist]. Hedonists: Blue Balls PA, or Climax Falls. Heavy drinkers: Plaster City CA (southeast of San Diego). Indians (from india) who meditate and walk on hot coals: obviously Sparks NV has a religeous conotation. and, gluttons: Duncan OK (as in Duncan Donuts ... hehehe)

mcontrary 8 years, 5 months ago

The names of neither places nor things were responsible for having the banner removed and is irrelevant to the issue at hand: the promotion of a particular, religious structure.

bearded_gnome 8 years, 5 months ago

oh wrong. recently, some of the same nutbags insisted that religeous symbols be removed from the city seal of the city of Los Angeles. also Los Crusas (sp?) NM. yet, the very names of these cities, by this kind of logic, promote religeon. the symbols were linked to the names and founding of these cities.

Los Crusas (sp?) translates to "the crosses" and Los Angeles" translates to "the angels." it is part of a much longer spanish name.

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