Monday, January 15, 2007

Unconstitutional Bluff Display?

If you read the Democrat today, you saw a front page article, with pictures, about a display on the Bluffs that might be unconstitutional.

Virginia O'Beirne, on behalf of Pro Life Natchez Adams County, went before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen on November 28 to request permission to arrange a temporary display on the bluffs to commemorate the anniversary of the Supreme Court Decision of Roe v Wade. The Board voted to take the matter under advisement and allow the City Attorney to research the matter.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Board voted to allow the display. When questioned after the meeting, the City Attorney felt the Board could not deny the request because the City did not have an ordinance regarding displays on the bluff. He added that he had been requested to draw up a ordinance for the Board to adopt. (Wouldn't it be nice if the Board asks for public opinion prior to adopting it?)

If the display had been as it was described by Ms O'Beirne, there likely would not have been a problem. She simply said there would be 4000 pink and blue flags. When asked by Alderman Pollard to describe the display, she again said there would be 4000 flags, taking up about 63 square feet, with a small sign explaining the display. I was there, and at no time did Ms O'Beirne mention that words and pictures would be on the flags. In fact, she said her group chose to have the display on public property so no denominational statement would be made. (You can read the Minutes of the Board meeting here.) .

I was pretty shocked to read the paper today and find that the flags were not blank, as I imagined. The blue flags have a cross and say "Jesus Forgives". Now we have a problem! The First Amendment of the US Constitution provides for separation of church and state, and there have been several Supreme Court rulings about religious displays on public property.

The Democrat must think it's a problem also, since their readers' poll today said: "Is the anti-abortion exhibit on the bluff appropriate for public land?" At this time, the No's have a slight lead over the Yes's, with 180 people voting. Since this community is probably predominantly pro life, those results tell me that religious freedom and the First Amendment are more important.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

The current Governor of Arkansas was on TV today. To paraphrase, he said many believe that life begins at conception; however it does not end at birth.

The simpletons who only focus on bringing a fetus to term should be focusing on quality of life issues. Quit bringing children into the world until we can educate them well, give them good jobs, good air to breath, and for heavens sakes good parenting.

The only thing Church and State seem to have in common in MS is they do precious to improve our quality of life--unless you really like big ugly sanctuaries.

Anonymous said...

I'm outraged that the lady in the ___ hat had the nerve to push her agenda on the rest of us...and in her words at "the most visible place in town" or something to that effect...on our most public bluff. And, our city council bows to this? I'd like to know what she does for the living child. Fertilized ovum don't count!!!

John Saleeby said...

The Constitution says NOTHING about "separation of Church & State".
It does say in the 1st Amendment (I think) "Congress will make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ....."(.) Further in the Xth amendment it states "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people". I suppose that lets the government down in a little town like this free to make its own decisions in such matters. After all our local government faces us every four years for approval or disapproval of its actions.

Before siting the "omnipotence" of the Supreme Court in such a divisive issue remember that is the very Court that held for slave owners in the Dred Scott decision.

I do think that issues such as this are a bit heavy for this kind of forum.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Anyway, I'm not sure that the city could legally deny her application, based on religion. I believe she could organize a parade, apply for a permit, and march down Main Street if she wanted to. I'm no constitutional law expert, but I believe this has been tested in court by groups like the KKK.

At least Ms. O'Beirne had the opportunity to exercise her right to freedom on speech on our public bluff WHILE WE STILL HAVE A PUBLIC BLUFF!

Our esteemed City Council is still hot to sell the Depot. Rumor is that the convention hotel folks are purchasing it to put a FRIDAYS restaurant there.

Can't you just see all the wonderful conventions coming to town to stay at the Country Inn and Suites and eat at the Fridays across the street. Man, that's special. Not!

John Saleeby said...

I should have included in my comment "I do think that issues such as this are a bit heavy for this kind of forum" because nothing said on either side of such issues will convince those holding contrary views.

Anonymous said...

This display is outrageous, unconstitutional and embarrassing. This is grounds for a law suit.

Anonymous said...

Now you've gone and opened Pandora's box,Casey. I can't help wondering what kind of parenting Anonymous 1 & 2 had to have them grow into adults with such cynical, uncaring, mean spirited, Pharasaic opinions. Guess they had all the other "goods" they mention, so parenting is the only unknown. Makes me think - would they have been among the aborted had their parents known how they would turn out?

Anonymous said...

Give me a break, anonymous 10:56 am! If you don't believe in abortion, fine. Don't Have One! But don't think for one second that any woman who has ever faced that decision jumped for joy at the prospect. You have no clue.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, and one more thing...Casey did not open the worm can here. It was our BOA by allowing this to take place on public land.

If I go in requesting a pro-choice display representing women (girls?) who stood a chance at a real life by not having an unwanted child will they let me do that? I seriously doubt it.

Anonymous said...

10:56am is demented. The display is unconstitutional and disgusting. Rise up people! Democracy = Pro Choice!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Anyony. 10:56 could answer a question I've long had: how is it that some among us spend so much time, energy, money on an effort to protect a fertilized egg when there are millions of bona-fide living children suffering in this world. Many, many children and babies have been lost to wars that this country has created. And yet this political wing of ultra-conservative religious-right fanantics voted a war- monger back in office and now turn their backs and their rigid minds to the fact that babies, children, adults have been slaughtered all in the name of some pie-in-the-sky agenda created by this administration. Wouldn't that time and effort be better spent on helping those who struggle with disease and poverty? Or is it just a lot cleaner to put some flags on the bluff and call it a job well done without having to touch a baby whose mother wasn't in any condition to have a child in the first place. A mother who was on crack, homeless herself, unwashed, uneducated, untouchable.

Anonymous said...

It appears that some abortion rights advocates assume that antiabortion people are not generous (don't contribute to the "commonweal"). YOU'RE WRONG!!
Note that I said "some" I don't generalize as so many of you have.

I pray I never become as mean-spirited and vicious as the prochoice advocates who have contributed their viperous remarks.

Anonymous said...

Just to set the record straight, samples of both flags were submitted to the attorney in question so that he would know exactly what was planned.

With regard to the various "anonymous" posters who have made raving generalizations about those of us who support the right to life, they are completely out of line. There are many of us who do spend a significant portion of our time and have, in fact, devoted our working lives to bring about the very quality of life they are so concerned about for the children we come in contact with. We DO deal with the mothers who are "on crack, homeless herself,unwashed, uneducated, untouchable" in an attempt (albeit often a vain one) to help her pull out of her situation and give her child a fighting chance.

Ruth Powers

Anonymous said...

THANK GOD we have the right to choose. Down the rightwing pigs who seek to deny us.

Anonymous said...

Anti-choicer Anonymous 7:30 said "I don't generalize as so many of you have...I pray I never become as mean-spirited and vicious as the prochoice advocates..."
Anti-choice Anonymous 10:56 said "cynical, uncaring, mean spirited, Pharasaic opinions"

Seems to me the generalizing is not at all one sided.

nottabelle said...

Re: Friday's (TGIFriday's I assume you mean)
This might be ok in general, but it's all about the exterior design.

In a perfect world, nothing replaces the Pecan Factory except open space, a park, or possibly a museum, but that's not reality. Something that isn't an out-of-place eyesore, that has a historic facade, etc. could fit there. At least TGIF is only one story and is less likely to make the bluff crash into the Mississippi than condos.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. O'Bierne has a right to her beliefs but this is not the first time she's pushed against consitutional boundaries. I understand that during the 2004 Presdidential election she and others stood on the steps of her church with flyers promoting "the pro-choice vote". So, this recent display should be no surprise. What next?

Anonymous said...

A crucial part of my comment, above, is incorrect. Ms. Bierne and her co-conspirators stood on the steps of her church handing out flyers promoting "the pro-life vote". Certainly not "pro-choice"!

Anonymous said...

It is not unconstitutional to distribute materials in a religious setting that deal with issues. The constitutional problem comes when specific candidates are discussed by name.

The materials distributed had been vetted by the lawyers of the United States Bishops Conference and had passed constitutional muster. Specific candidates were not then and have not ever been discussed in the church setting. In fact, in a book discussion group that I facilitated last year just prior to the last presidential election I had to stop two people (one of whom was a priest) from discussing specific candidates because the discussion was taking place on church property and we wanted no possible charge of political promotion.

By the way, I find it interesting that so many of the people who post on this question have been content to hide behind "anonymous". If you believe so strongly in what you say, why don't you sign your name?

Ruth Powers

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insight. But, I never said she'd broken the law; I only said she was pushing against the boundaries. I remain offended by those who use the "church" to promote a political agenda and those who use our government to promote their religious beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Dear 10:56 a.m., This is anonymous #1. Yes, I was adopted by F*#@!g Jerks who managed to ruin my childhood. I have had to disown them as an adult. God knew what he was doing when He made my "mother" sterile. Please consider abortion might have stood to reason...

The adoption agency that I was processed through has been sued out of existance-- Fortunately. Proper controls are not in place to see that former-fetuses are not raised by freaking lunatics. I would have gladly waited in Heaven for the next "drawing". Maybe that time I wouldn't have gotten the short straw.
M.Y.O.B. PLEASE DON'T ADD TO THE HUMAN SUFFERING EQUATION!!! Not to mention the plethora of parentless already-here kids.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand why the display is "unconstitutional?"

Anonymous said...

I hope we will be having the "Flagettes for Fetuses" display next year. I am worried as other communities have found such displays in violation of SIGN ORDINANCES. I think we can get around this however.

Why don't we parlay it up a notch? We could have a fundraiser for the Bluff--I'm Thinking "FETUS FEST."

We could bring the Carnival back to the bluff (although paying $1 to see the birth-defect carnies might send the wrong message).

Lets face it, Right-Wingers will buy into anything. Look at all the money Tammy Faye Baker made! If we could just have vision.

Anonymous said...

This discussion reminds me of "The Meaning of Life"--a movie friends made me see years ago.

One refrain was:

"Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great; if one sperm is wasted, God gets quite IRATE.
Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is good, every sperm deserves a place in your neighborhood...

I am very thankful my city-friends had an ironic sense of humor.

John Farmer