For years, Pinellas Park businessman Randy Heine has objected to the Bible that sits on the dais in the front of the Pinellas Park City Council chambers.
"The Bible must go. It doesn't belong in a government meeting," Heine said. "Every time I speak, it makes me feel awkward."
Now, Heine has an ally: The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wisconsin.
Its most recent letter, dated Monday, cites several federal court cases that resulted in the removal of bibles from public displays.
The basic issue is the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state.
"Not only is the city council sending a message of endorsement for Christianity over other religions and nonreligion," the letter asserts, "but display of this King James Bible sends a message of endorsement of one particular Christian sect over all others."
The foundation also takes issue with including inserts for church-based events in the city's utility bill mailings.
Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel told FOX 13 News he has written four letters to Pinellas Park leaders since last summer and "They've just refused to even deign to answer our issues, so I think that says something about their mindset."
Seidel said in most cases, government attorneys review the case law and advise their clients to cease and desist.
"Then you get these towns like Pinellas Park that try to be recalcitrant and think they can fight it, and we end up in these lengthy court battles," Seidel said.
Doug Lewis becomes Pinellas Park City Manager next week, but told FOX 13 News the latest letter is now being reviewed by the city's attorney.
Lewis is the city's former fire chief and is aware the Bible has been controversial from time to time, but numerous city councils have kept it on the dais.
"The Bible was given to the city by the Kiwanis Club, I believe when the building was dedicated," Lewis said. "They feel it's part of City Hall, as being part of the dedication ceremony, and it's become part of the history of the building."
"I think that's dubious at best," Seidel countered. "This isn't a Gutenberg Bible that was printed on the first printing press, nor is it displayed in a museum. It is displayed at the very seat of government."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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