Group says DeLand city seal promotes 'Christian virtues' - FOX 35 News Orlando

Group says DeLand city seal promotes 'Christian virtues'

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DELAND, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

There's a fight brewing over a city seal that has been a symbol of a community for more than a century.

The DeLand municipal seal shows a cross, a heart, and an anchor.  One group is saying these are symbols for the Christian faith and they should be taken off the seal, or the seal taken down altogether.

It all started with one complaint, according to Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, the president of the local chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

He told FOX 35, "Someone in the city of DeLand said, 'We're uncomfortable with the presence of a cross and religious symbols in our seal. It makes us non-Christians feel like second-class citizens.'"

That's when Americans United stepped in,  sending a letter asking the city to remove the three "religious" symbols, or stop using the seal.

"This is an intrusion of religion into the world of government," Rabbi Shapiro said, "And the world of government and the world of religion should be separate as called for in the First Amendment of the United States constitution."

In a statement, city manager Michael Pleus told FOX 35, "The seal has been in place since the date of incorporation…it's an important part of our history… and in 131 years, we've never had a complaint about our seal."

Some citizens disagree. Paul Nehrig, who has lived in DeLand for the last decade said, "What's changed is people's sensitivity to that. Culture has changed. So we have to rethink what we've done a hundred years ago."

If you look around DeLand, the image decorates everything from city signs to municipal buildings to police cruisers. Changing or removing it could cost thousands of dollars. So who would foot the bill?

"I'm afraid the citizens of the city of DeLand." Shapiro said. "It should not have been there in the first place, it is wrong."

The city attorney is preparing a response to the letter.  It should be ready sometime in the next two weeks.

READ LETTER SENT TO DELAND

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