The city of Coronado, California, will be removing a church directory sign from city property. According to the Los Angeles Times, the sign has been on the property since the 60s, and its removal is being prompted by “First Amendment concerns.”
The concerns first arose when Ryan Meoni, a 20-year-old who grew up in Coronado, complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation about the sign’s use of the word “church.” Meoni later explained that he didn’t like the word “because, in his opinion, it excludes religious institutions that meet in temples or mosques.” As his intention was simply to get the one word replaced, Meoni was surprised when his complaint brought even farther-reaching consequences.
According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the inclusion of only Christian churches on the list “could give the appearance that Coronado promotes Christianity over other faiths.” And, as the organization expressed in a letter to the city, this raises “serious constitutional concerns under the Establishment Clause.”
University of San Diego Law Professors cited in the article shared their concerns that taking no action to change or remove the sign could lead to serious social and political issues in the future. Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey even “cited possible 1st Amendment lawsuits.”
One San Diego attorney, Charles LiMandri, had a different take on the issue. “I’m not sure at this point why they need to do anything,” he stated. “Removing it could be a violation by showing hostility toward a religion.” This hostility toward Christian groups, he suggested, could open up a whole new can of worms, soliciting lawsuits from the churches affected by the sign’s removal.
In an attempt to avoid the appearance of discrimination, however, the city intends to install “a new directory … [that is] inclusive of all organizations, including our faith-based ones” once the current directory is removed.
If this is true, the people of Coronado will have to prepare themselves for a pretty large sign since Coronado has around 90 “community organizations.”