The Fish Must Go: Court Rules Missouri Must Remove Religious Symbol from City Logo

July 9, 1999

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SPRINGFIELD, MO -- A federal judge today ruled that the city of Republic must remove the ichthus, a Christian symbol, from its city logo.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed the case on July 1, 1998 on behalf of Jean Webb, a resident of Republic at the time, and a member of the Wiccan faith.

"The use of a Christian symbol by the city on its official seal -- including its flag, vehicles, signs and stationery -- violated the First Amendment's mandate for separation of church and state," said ACLU of Missouri volunteer attorney Doug Bonney.

In his ruling, Judge Russell G. Clark agreed and stated, "...when viewing the fish on Republic's flag, a reasonable observer would conclude that it is a Christian religious symbol. While the citizens of Republic may have intended that its seal send only a message of moral values or promote 'a universal symbol of religion,' an applaudable motive cannot save the city seal from a violation of the Establishment Clause. While the purpose of placing the fish on the city seal may not have been to endorse Christianity, the effect of the seal is to do so."

"The portrayal of the fish impermissibly excludes other religious beliefs or non-beliefs and--intended or not--depicts Christianity as the religion recognized and endorsed by the residents of Republic," Judge Clark added. "The Republic city seal pervasively invades the daily lives of non-Christians and sends a message that they are outsiders. The Constitution forbids such a result."

The city has 30 days in which to begin removing the seal or file an appeal. The city adopted the logo in 1991.

Judge Clark's decision and all of the other case filings can be found at: http://ecf.mowd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/DocketSheet.pl?98-03306.

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