2007 Press Releases

6.20.2007: An Open Letter from the ACLU of Louisiana to the City Court of Slidell

City Court of Slidell
Attn. Clerk Susan S. Ordoyne
501 Bouscaren Street
Slidell, Louisiana 70459

Re:      Religious Display in Lobby

Via:     U.S. Mail and Facsimile to (985)646-2618

Dear Ms. Ordoyne,

We have received several complaints with respect to a picture of Jesus[1], which is prominently displayed in the lobby of the Slidell City Court. Underneath the picture is large gold lettering saying ?To Know Peace, Obey These Laws.? The display is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, requiring that it be removed. The purpose of this letter is to request that you do so.

The United States Supreme Court has held that a government, such as the city of Slidell, violates the Establishment Clause when it acts with the "ostensible and predominant purpose of advancing religion" as judged from an objective observer's standpoint, taking into consideration the text, legislative history, and implementation of the state action. McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, 545 U.S. 844 (2005). Taking into account such factors, the Slidell courthouse display clearly violates the Establishment Clause.

The only possible purpose of the display in your courthouse is to convey a religious message. The display is itself a religious icon. The lettering beneath the display clearly conveys an instruction to obey the laws of Jesus Christ. The display is prominently placed in the lobby of the courthouse, such that every person entering the courthouse is subjected to it. Moreover, as an admonition hanging in a court of law, it clearly gives the impression that only believers in the law of Jesus Christ will receive justice in that courthouse.

It is imperative that you take the display down. As mentioned, we have received complaints from persons who have been exposed to the display, and who object to the display. We are prepared to file a lawsuit, but a favorable response from you could resolve this matter without such recourse. Therefore, please remove the display to comply with the law by close of business on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 to prevent further action on our part.

We sincerely hope that Slidell city leaders will act quickly to prevent liability on the part of Slidell taxpayers. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions.

Sincerely,

Katie Schwartzmann
Staff Attorney

cc:Judge James Lamz, via facsimile above

Mayor Ben Morris, via facsimile to (985)  646-4209

Slidell City Council, via facsimile to (985) 643-1854

[1] See icon at www.laaclu.org/PDF_documents/slidell_cthse1.jpg