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Mt. Juliet commissioners vote to support county in ACLU lawsuit
Oct 03, 2006 12:00 am
Mt. Juliet squires have crafted a resolution in support of Wilson County Schools after learning the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit claiming a West Wilson school actively promoted Christianity.
A top level Lebanon official quickly jumped on board in the show of support, stating all Wilson County governments should "stand together" in what has expanded into what may become a joint resolution rallying against the lawsuit
State Rep. Susan Lynn also pledged her support for the school district, claiming the lawsuit is "unfounded" and it's "time the rights of citizens be defended."
Upon learning Lakeview Elementary School was pinpointed in the ACLU lawsuit that claims the school allowed the singing of Christmas carols and improperly promoting National Day of Prayer, Mt. Juliet District 1 City Commissioner Ray Justice immediately began to think of a way to show symbolic support of the system as it prepares to fight the lawsuit.
Justice quickly garnered support from his fellow commissioners, including Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam, to write a resolution that would denounce the lawsuit and to let the community and the county know they believe the lawsuit is "offensive."
"We want to say the City of Mt. Juliet finds the involvement of the ACLU in the daily activities at Lakeview offensive," Justice said Friday. "And they (ACLU) have no right to get involved with how we raise our children."
Justice went on to note the Board of Education is elected by the people of Wilson County and the "ACLU in no shape or fashion represents my views as a parent."
"I think the majority of the people we represent will also find this lawsuit offensive," Justice said.
As Wilson County grows, it will be more susceptible to this type of "invasion," according to Justice.
"We just want the county to know as they defend themselves on this, they have our full support," he stated. "Some issues may divide us, but this is not one of them.
Lebanon Mayor Don Fox agreed solidarity in opposition to the lawsuit is an issue both Mt. Juliet and Lebanon can agree on.
"For some organization to say our Founding Fathers were wrong is just absolutely ridiculous," Fox said. "I agree, this county needs to have a joint resolution that lets our citizens believe this thread of freedom that began in 1775 must not be allowed to be disrupted by a small minority who want to govern the vast majority of this country with their opinions."
Mt. Juliet District 2 Commissioner Glen Linthicum stated no where in the Constitution do you find the words "separation of church and state."
"That is a judicial decree," he said. "The establishment clause in the Constitution's First Amendment merely reads that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. As far as I know, the Congress has passed no law establishing a state religion."
The squire noted "moms and dads" in this county need to stand up to the ACLU and "their constant attacks on traditional values of America."
Lynn said she thought crafting a joint resolution was a "wonderful idea."
"Representatives have to speak up when citizens are attacked without warrant," she said. "It's about time we speak up about frivolous lawsuits with no standing and defend the rights of citizens."
Lynn noted the ACLU is trying to use the courts to defeat the First Amendment rights of Wilson Countian's to express their faith by meeting to pray in this community.
"Again and again the courts have held that religious speech is protected under the First Amendment," she said. "Hopefully, their attempt to silence citizens who wish to join together and express their faith will fail."
Some court findings Lynn mentioned include students and teachers retain their First Amendment liberties while on campus. "Students have an individual Constitutional right to display their faith as long as they do not disrupt classroom learning, and if schools allow other groups to advertise their events through school bulletin boards, school PA systems, general posting of student flyers, or other means, the school cannot forbid the same means of advertising for religious events," she said.
Mt. Juliet city manager Rob Shearer said a joint resolution is a "wonderful way for government officials to express themselves."
"There is nothing improper about meeting at 'the pole' on school grounds before school if it is student led," he said.
The city manager noted for the past six years city staff have decorated their front office with Christmas decorations that are both secular and religious
"I have asked for legal advise on this issue and was told we could, based on decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court," Shearer said.
He stated a resolution was a good way for commissioners to make a point.
Elam said the lawsuit was "out of bounds" and an intrusion into areas already ruled on.
While Justice and Fox agreed to work on a joint resolution, the city of Mt. Juliet has plunged ahead with its own version that requests the school system "vigorously defend the rights of citizens of Wilson County, including students, to the constitutionally protected free exercise of religion."
This version will be voted on at the Oct. 9 city commission meeting.
An attempt to reach Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings was unsuccessful at press time.
Mt. Juliet News Managing Editor Laurie Everett may be reached at 754-6397 or via e-mail at email@example.com.