ORLANDO, Fla. — A county tax collector’s office in Florida has removed a Christian sign from the view of the public after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) wrote to the entity to assert that the display was an “unconstitutional endorsement of religion over non-religion.” The small sign, which appears to have rested on a desk or counter inside the Orange County tax collector’s office at the West Oaks Mall in Ocoee, read, “Faith does not make things easy. It makes them possible. Luke 1:37.” FFRF says that it was alerted to the presence of the saying by a local resident, and in turn, the atheist-led organization asked that the “exclusionary display” be removed. “We write to ask that the county remove this religious sign from county property in recognition that it represents an unconstitutional endorsement of religion over non religion,” the letter, sent on Feb. 27, stated, arguing that even items on personal work spaces have been found to still be applicable in the eyes of the courts.
“The Establishment Clause prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages,” it asserted. “[T]his display of religious sentiment on a sign directed towards the public would be viewed by a reasonable observer as an endorsement of religion, and is therefore unconstitutional.” FFRF further contended that the signage alienated residents who do not identify as Christians. “The Orange County tax collector serves all citizens regardless of belief or nonbelief. This message alienates the 24% of Americans who are non-religious,” it wrote. “We urge the county to recognize its obligation to provide all citizens with an environment free from religious endorsement by removing this exclusionary display.” Read the letter in full here. Collector Scott Randolph responded to FFRF on March 2, simply stating, “My office has brought this to the attention of West Oak Mall’s agency manager. The sign has been removed.” View Randolph’s response here. As previously reported, a number of other public agencies have removed Christian displays and signage upon receipt of a letter from FFRF. Last May, a Scripture citation written on a retaining wall at a California junior-senior high school was painted over after FFRF wrote to the school district on behalf of a parent. In 2018, a city in Ohio removed a Ten Commandments plaque from a public park after the group issued a complaint, and in 2017, a Tennessee police department relocated a plaque quoting Romans 8:31 after the mayor concluded that it was in the best interest of the city not to spend taxpayer money defending the plaque. However, others have rather decided to resist FFRF’s assertions, such as a mayor in Tennessee who declared, “Our community is based on the belief of a true and living God” after the group requested that a Scripture posted to the walls of the Henderson County Courthouse be removed. Last May, county commissioners in Texas voted unanimously to reject the group’s request to remove four crosses that are displayed on the outside of the San Jacinto County courthouse. And in January, the police chief of Detroit, Michigan declined to oblige FFRF’s request that the department cease holding police academy graduations at local churches. Noah Webster (1758-1843), known as the Father of American Education, once said, “No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from — vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war — proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”