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Athiest Group Wants City To Remove Cross And Historic Motto From Seal

In New Jersey, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that advocates for the separation of church and state, has called for the borough of Clayton, New Jersey, to replace its current seal and motto. The town's seal is a symbol of a church with a cross and its motto reads, "A Great Place to Live and Play, Work and Pray."

Yet, the FFRF believes the inclusion of the cross and reference to praying violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which states that the government will not involve itself with religious matters. The FFRF also claims that the seal's cross represents an endorsement of Christianity and Christian prayer.

FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler wrote in a September 2015 letter to Tom Bianco, the borough's mayor, "Federal courts have ruled that similar seals violate the Establishment Clause. Federal courts have also consistently ruled that religious symbolism, and crosses specifically, on municipal seals are unconstitutional."

Solicitor Timothy Scaffidi wrote in an October 2015 response to FFRF's request, "It is the position of Borough of Clayton that the church and cross on the Clayton seal, along with the other items of historical significance in Clayton, has the secular purpose of recognizing the history of the Borough." In their news release, the FFRF urged Clayton to consider becoming more inclusive, citing the 30 percent of Americans who do not practice Christianity.

Ziegler wrote a follow-up letter stating, "… It's not a city's place to declare that it's a good place to pray. The Borough of Clayton ought not to lend its power and prestige to religion by promoting a religious activity in its official motto."

Photo: Patheos, ClaytonJ

City asked to revise their seal by the FFRF.

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