To the editor:
It says something important that the city's controversy over the city logo coincides with the national Chick-fil-A controversy. In both cases those who claim to defend freedom and diversity are attacking freedom of speech and expression and diversity of thought.
The Freedom from Religion group makes it clear that its agenda is not truly freedom of religious belief and expression, but the eradication of any sign of the very presence of religion, in particular of Christianity, in our society. This was the attitude of most militantly atheistic communist governments: you are free to worship inside the walls of your church or in your home, if you are willing to accept the discrimination which will follow you into society and the workplace. But your religious faith must remain private and hidden. It will not be tolerated in the public square, and the force of the state will ensure it stays hidden and innocuous.
We see the same attitude in the reaction of some politicians to the publicly stated religious beliefs of Chick-fil-A's president concerning so-called "gay marriage." In retaliation against the beliefs of the owner of the chain, these politicians proclaimed their own beliefs to be the only acceptable ones, and threatened to keep the restaurant chain out of their cities. This despite the fact that Chick-fil-A does not discriminate in hiring or serving anyone, and that the restaurant president was only expressing his own personal beliefs. The thought police would bring the power of government and state coercion to bear to silence or punish any opinion not their own. For these politicians, constitutional guarantees of freedom of belief, speech and expression belong only to those who agree with them, not to every citizen.
In the case of the Steubenville city logo, the attack by Freedom from Religion is clearly frivolous. The chapel silhouette with its cross is not a religious symbol, but a recognition of a very important presence and landmark in the city, one for which Steubenville is known internationally and which is a vital social and economic cornerstone of our community.
That it happens to also be a religious institution is immaterial for the purposes of the logo. Freedom from Religion hoped to use the coercive threat of expensive lawsuits, which the city can ill afford, to win an easy victory. The generous offer of pro-bono legal services to the city by civic-minded attorneys eliminates the economic coercion factor and allows the city to defend our constitutional freedoms against the new fascism seeking to remake America in its own intolerant and dictatorial image. I hope they will do so.
The Rev. Rade Merick
Serbian Orthodox Church