Nancy and I are hitting the road for Vegas in the morning. We’re going to a Skeptics meeting called TAM–The Amazing Meeting named after the world famous magician James The Amazing Randi. This will be our seventh trip to a TAM in Vegas. We’ve also participated in their Totally Amazing Adventure cruises. The James Randi Education Foundation has been THE voice for reason when dealing with what James Randi calls woo-woo for years. Before we go, I’d like to report on my address to the Tucson City Council.
The Council meets usually four times a month and during the meeting they have an audience call where members of the public get a chance to address the council for an uninterrupted three minutes. This was my first meeting of the Tucson City Council and I was prepared to speak on the council’s action, or lack of action, on the complaint that there are religious shrines located on city property. The city council has decided that the appropriate action is to take no action.
If you’ve been following this blog you’re aware of the situation. You’ll know how one city councilman decided to attack the person that lodged the complaint. The city attorney doesn’t see the shrines as a problem since the city didn’t place the shrines there. This is a clear case of willful ignorance on his part. The court precedents are clear…allowing religious displays on public property violates the separation of church and state and it doesn’t matter who placed them there.
Here is my address to the council:
I’ve lived in Rita Ranch in Tucson since January 2000. I moved here after a 27 year career in the Air Force and retired from Raytheon Missile Systems in March 2008.
And I’m here representing the freethought community of Tucson—The American Atheists, Tucson Atheists, Skeptics of Tucson, FreeThought Arizona, and the Secular Students Alliance at the University of Arizona. I am also a member of the ACLU and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
I didn’t lodge the original complaint about the shrines on ‘A Mountain’ but a member of my community did. Once the complaint was made it is not my job to challenge the motivation of the complainant or pass judgment on the importance of the complaint. Instead it is up to me as a representative of that community to verify that the complaint is a valid one and to make sure that it is addressed. That is why I’m here.
The complaint is about permanent shrines located on ‘A Mountain.’ The shrines serve NO secular purpose and are located on city property. In short—they don’t belong there. In addition, religious shrines are inconsistent with the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert.
When the Federal courts evaluate complaints they follow a couple of guidelines.
The first is the Endorsement Test—a test proposed by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in the 1984 case of Lynch v. Donnelly. The test asks, “Is the government doing something that makes people THINK that the government endorses religion?”
The second guideline is the “Lemon Test” derived from the Supreme Court case of Lemon v. Kurtzman in 1971. The court’s decision in this case established the three prongs of the Lemon Test:
- The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose.
- The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion.
- The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.
If any of these prongs are violated, the government’s action is deemed unconstitutional. The city’s decision to TAKE NO ACTION is government action that violates the test.
In two very recent events, in April and May of this year involving images of the Virgin Mary on public property, the city managers decided to remove them rather than face the courts. In the case in Passaic New Jersey the city manager there said, “Although the shrine is sacred to some, it’s on public property and in the sense of the separation of church and state we can’t have a shrine here.” In the case in Springfield Massachusetts, a statue of the Virgin Mary was removed from a traffic island.
Finally, there are members of the Tucson Atheists that regularly clean up the roadway on ‘A Mountain’ and other places and FreeThought Arizona is a participant in the adopt-a-highway program. Our community is committed to provide manpower and collect funds necessary to move the shrines to a more appropriate location if requested.
You can watch it on YouTube.