There’s a message board encased in glass outside the Athens County Courthouse (in Ohio) that lists the addresses of all the houses of worship in the area.
Eliot Kalman, a resident who used to head up the local branch of the ACLU, believes the presence of that sign is unconstitutional… he complained about it to local officials but they responded by saying they were simply providing information to the public, not promoting any of the religious groups — and that he could request his own group be added to the list if he wanted. Unsatisfied with that answer, he fought back by putting a giant sticker on the board:
… Kalman said he posted a sticker that stated, “Take Note, From the Constitution of the United States of America,” which includes the First Amendment, including the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses.
In other words, he committed a petty form of vandalism to protest what he saw as a constitutional violation.
Even after his sticker was taken down, he continued to put a new one back up in a weird passive-aggressive battle… eventually, he was caught on camera and arrested:
Kalman took umbrage to being arrested, handcuffed, searched and “perp walked” after what he considers an appropriate public protest of what he calls this violation of church and state. He showed a document he was given ordering him to stay off the courthouse property, which he called a “pretend order,” because it was given by the Sheriff’s Office, not a judge, and is therefore not appealable.“They put me in handcuffs for exercising my First Amendment rights as if I were a dangerous person,” Kalman said.
His pre-trial was held yesterday morning. Kalman says if he’s found guilty, he’ll consider further legal action.
Let’s get a couple of things out of the way:
It’s hard to imagine any judge would see the sign as a promotion of religion, especially if the county official who helps maintain it allows any local religious or non-religious group to be included on the list. I say that despite the fact that it’s managed by the Athens County Ministerial Association, was originally put up in the 1940s by the Athens Christian Education Committee, and includes only two non-Christian groups on the list.
And if you’re going to protest the sign’s existence, don’t do it by altering county property, even with a sticker that can be peeled off (hopefully without sticker residue). That’s stupid. You don’t prove your point, you damage your own cause, and it upsets me, dammit.
The most effective way to protest, in my opinion, is to suggest a local non-religious group be added to the list… and see if it gets rejected. Then, you might have something to work with.
By the way, Kalman also protested a local street roundabout dedication ceremony in 2010 because it included an invocation. Doesn’t look like he won many people over to his side then, either.
(via Religion Clause. Thanks to Scott for the link)