It recently came to our attention that Utica Fire Station #4 put up a sign for the holidays reading "HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS - WE LOVE YOU!" Our organization has been contacted by several people from the Utica area - both believers and non-believers - who are concerned about the breach of church / state separation. Here is our response to Chief Brooks.
Dear Chief Russell Brooks:
As a local organization, we are writing to express our concern about the sign at Utica Fire Department Station 4. We absolutely agree that every individual should be free to express his or her own religious or philosophic views. However, when one is acting in a public capacity to serve and represent all members of the community, signs like those show a clear preference for Christians while alienating those of other faiths, nonbelievers, and those who value a government that remains neutral on matters of religion.
We respectfully request that you remove the sign and stop the sale of t-shirts with the same message. Both explicitly invoke the name Jesus, an exclusively Christian deity. In addition, the statement “WE LOVE YOU” is in direct support of that deity on behalf of the station and City. This type of support for a single religion is prohibited by the Establishment clause.
It is our desire to protect all American citizens’ right to freedom of worship in the manner of their choosing, and the constitutional mandate requiring the separation of church and state. We are hopeful that you’ll find a more appropriate location for the sign, and we look forward to hearing from you.
Corrina Allen President, Central New York Humanist Association
If you care about keeping public spaces welcoming to all citizens and free from religious endorsement, please let others know how you feel! Here are a few people you can contact and places to express your concerns:
Chief Russell Brooks - firstname.lastname@example.org
David Dudajek, Utica Observer Dispatch Opinion/Viewpoints Editor - email@example.com
Utica Fire Department Facebook Page