SONOMA, CA – A Marine veteran’s complaints has caused all religious Christmas imagery be removed from Sonoma County government buildings.
Irv Sutley is a disabled 65 year old Marine veteran. He is a lifelong atheist and is also chairman of the Sonoma County’s Peace and Freedom Party.
Upon seeing an angel atop the Christmas tree in the county recorder’s office, Sutley filed a complaint with the County Administrator. He believes the religious symbols are “extremely offensive” and part of the “cult” of Christianity.
“I just don’t believe government has the right to intrude on anyone and force them into sectarian behavior,” said Sutley. “I’ve opposed Buddhist statues, the star of David — anything of a religious nature.”
Sutley pointed to a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stated any religious symbols on government-sponsored Christmas trees are considered an illegal endorsement of Christianity.
All 26 county departments have now been instructed to remove any and all religious holiday symbols from displays.
Jim Toomey, the public information officer for the county, confirmed the order. “To avoid any controversy and to satisfy this gentleman’s concerns, the ornaments were removed,” said Toomey.
Each year, America sees a struggle between church and state during the holiday season. In 2007, Oklahoma City employees defied orders to remove Christian-themed decorations from their office. In 1999, a display featuring a menorah and manger scene was found to be constitutional once a symbol from Kwanzaa and numerous secular symbols such as Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman were added.