'Christian Heritage' Proclamation Sparks Fla. Dispute

Brushing aside church-state concerns, the Gainesville (Fla.) City Commission has issued a proclamation for "Christian Heritage Week."

Mayor Tom Bussing had refused several requests to sign the religious proclamation. "I don't believe government belongs in the religion business, or vice versa," Bussing said. The Gainesville Sun reported that a retired University of Florida professor had been urging the mayor for several years to issue the religious proclamation.

On Nov. 11, the City Commission voted 5-2 to override Bussing's decision and approve the proclamation. The resolution encourages residents to "acknowledge and celebrate, each in their own way, the heritage of our great state and nation where our motto is 'In God We Trust.'" It also asserts, "The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His Apostles."

Members of an Americans United chapter spoke out against the proclamation at the Nov. 11 meeting. Those residents also voiced their concerns in the Nov. 18 Gainesville Sun.

"The Gainesville City Commission should simply not be in the business of proclaiming any religion's merits onto the community," Diane and Ira Fischler wrote. "What part of the First Amendment don't the commissioners understand?"