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home : opinions : opinions September 28, 2016

7/7/2009 9:26:00 PM
Editorial: Constitution is Camp Verde's cross to bear

One fragile cross that few people noticed hanging in a government building has caused a rift among good people in Camp Verde. Instead of being a moment for vitriolic attacks against the woman who complained about the cross or the town manager who had it removed, this should be a time to celebrate the U.S. Constitution.

Once notified of the complaint, Mike Scannell was well within his duties to ask Bread of Life Mission Director Duane Burris to take down the cross in the community center gym. Burris, in a very Christian, very American way, understood the complaint's legal stand and complied without raising a fuss.

For the purpose of "domestic tranquility," government should be religiously neutral, period. The appearance of being otherwise, either in endorsing or prohibiting a religion, leads to offense. The very first phrase of the very first amendment to the Constitution, the so-called Establishment Clause, is meant to prevent this from happening.

To be clear, the Town of Camp Verde had no intent to establish a religion in allowing Bread of Life to keep the cross hanging in the community center gym. The Bread of Life's only intent in keeping the cross there was to prevent it from falling apart. The Mission was not making a political statement, and the Town was not making a religious statement.

The problem was, as the late Chief Justice Warren Burger would say, the presence of the cross had "the potential for impermissible fostering of religion."

Making politically religious hay out of what should have been a non-issue between the Town and the Mission is doing a disservice to the Constitution and is being unjust to Scannell. Neither the Town nor Scannell stands in the way of anyone's free exercise of religion.

The majority of Camp Verde residents are Christians. That fact does not give the Town authority to approve Christian symbols on its walls; it gives the Town the responsibility of guarding the rights of those who have different beliefs. Those who absolutely refuse to see the point of view of others are doing no favors to their own religion.

It is an awkward reflection of Camp Verde that those who are pounding pulpits in protest and demonizing the town manager cannot understand the First Amendment and the whole reason for its existence.

Related Stories:
• Letter: Editorial a valuable, courageous service
• Camp Verde cross controversy still grows
• Cross at crux of Camp Verde controversy

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, July 13, 2009
Article comment by: Desertman

Norma Garrison feels her rights are being stepped on. How does the removal of the cross inhibit her right to free exercise of religion? She doesn't own the gymnasium, the city government does.

Posted: Monday, July 13, 2009
Article comment by: Curmudgeon

The hullabaloo proves once again the wisdom of an old proverb: "Christianity has a few great teachings and a million bad teachers." To be just, let's also hang a Wiccan star in the gym. Surely fair-minded Christians will not object --- or will they?

Posted: Monday, July 13, 2009
Article comment by: Dan

The First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Given that the Supreme Court has interpreted the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as applying the limitations of the First Amendment to each state, including any local government within a state, the town's decision would appear to be the correct one. It certainly is in line with other decisions of a similar nature. A lot of people who complain about these decisions seem blind to the fact that since the separation of church and state applies equally to ALL religions, each religion is in fact protected...which of course was the intent of the First Amendment in the first place. The Norma Garrisons of the world are either ignorant of this; or worse, explicitly want to turn the U.S. into a theocracy.

Posted: Friday, July 10, 2009
Article comment by: Where's the Research?

This editorial states that "the majority of Camp Verde residents are Christians." From where does this factoid arise? Do we have some current census data on our religious affiliation, or is there another (credible) source?

Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2009
Article comment by: No name provided

What vitriolic attach against the woman that complained? There was none. Instead there were prayers called for on her behalf. As far as the 1st Amendment your completely wrong about what it says. I would suggest you read it. Is this editorial from the same bugle reporter that is going around town calling Camp Verde Christians 'Jihadists' and no different from the people we are fighting in Afganistan? If so he must have been disappointed at the Wed meeting when there was no video-tape available of the Camp Verde 'Jihadists' cutting off the arms and legs of 14 year boys who worshipped the wrong God or video tape of them removing the heads of bound prisoners begging for mercy. Your bias is sickening. Read the Constitution if you know where to find one.

Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2009
Article comment by: Devil's Advocate

When Norma Garrison briefly served on the governing board for the Camp Verde Unified School District, she earned quite a reputation as a book burner. This recent action shouldn't come as any big surprise to anyone who knows the history of her "public service."

Posted: Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Article comment by: No name provided

Norma Garrison thinks that she is bigger than the U.S. Constitution. She needs to get over herself and concentrate on what she was elected to do. This is not it!

Posted: Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Article comment by: Ria Rhodes

So nice to read a reasonable editorial about this contentious issue in an area with more than its fair share of narrow-minded thinkers. I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. - Mahatma Gandhi

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