Chester County Pennsylvania commissioners rejected arguments this morning (Nov. 29) to rescind Resolution 58-10, which was enacted to exclude non-Judeo-Christian winter displays from the county courthouse lawn during the winter season. The resolution was originally intended to kick out the Freethought Society’s Tree of Knowledge from sharing equal space with the Jesus crèche and a Hanukkah menorah. This year, the Evangelical Pastafarian Church also requested a space on the courthouse lawn.
Resolution 58-10 directs that only displays owned by the county are allowed to be put up and the county can decide what displays they choose be own. The county then acquired the crèche from the Pennsylvania Pastors Network for a dollar. They then refused to acquire the Freethought Society’s Tree of Knowledge in a similar fashion.
On Tuesday’s “Sunshine Meeting,” Pastafarian Minister Tracy McPherson and Freethought Society president Margaret Downey made request for equal treatment under the law. Commissioner Ryan Costello (R) pointed out that under the 58-10 Resolution, those requests would be excluded and expressed his intent to uphold that resolution. Commissioner Kathi Cozzone (D) suggested that the Resolution be re-evaluated.
This morning’s meeting put the Resolution to question. According to McPherson, the county received over 50 e-mails from people opposed to Resolution 58-10 and in support of the Pastafarian Tree and the Tree of Knowledge. Five supporters of the Tree of Knowledge and two Pastafarian Pirate also spoke at the meeting. There was only one speaker who spoke in support of the Resolution.
The vote came down 2 to 1 in support of keeping the Resolution which will continue to restrict the courthouse lawn to only Judeo-Christian holiday displays at the exclusion of displays the county commissioners don’t like. When asked about the outcome McPherson told me that she was “now exploring my legal options.”
The Resolution itself might be Constitution if the county picked what displays they would “buy” and erected without regard to ideology. But it appears that they are simply elevating one religion over another based on ideology. They are in affect endorsing an establishment of religion in clear violation of the First Amendment.
You can watch the video of McPherson’s remarks at the “Sunshine Meeting” in the previous article: Pastafarians fight county commissioners for Holiday display. I will post more updates on this story as they become available.
To learn more about the Evangelical Pastafarian Church, check out their Facebook page and to learn more about the Freethought Society, check out their website.
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