Entries Tagged '1st Amendment' ↓

Mayor continues to politicize the Jesus Snowplow issue

Man, this guy really doesn’t get the whole ‘Freedom of Religion, Establishment Clause’ thingy;

Mayor Mike Huether’s office was informed yesterday that the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty was planning to acknowledge the City of Sioux Falls and also Mayor Huether in a news release issued today. This relates to the City’s Paint the Plows program, which uses student artwork.

“Sioux Falls is becoming more and more diverse every day, and that is something we celebrate here. We value diversity and differing opinions. Everyone is important in our town,” says Mayor Mike Huether.

Here is the acknowledgement;

This year, inspired by the good cheer and common sense of the Mayor Mike Huether of Sioux Falls, we are bestowing the city of Sioux Falls the (momentary) Ebenezer award but promptly toasting the mayor.

Sioux Falls was our #1 contender for the Ebenezer award after it notified a private school that the city snowplow blades its young students had labored over and decorated would be repainted and censored. Why? Because the students had decided to celebrate the season with—gasp!—artwork celebrating the religious nature of Christmas.

The city, which had previously accepted religious art, momentarily lost its way when one lone atheist claiming to be part of the Siouxland Freethinkers filed an informal complaint.

The irony of this is that the Mayor is using city resources (Website, IT and Communications public employees) to applaud an award from a Religious Organization that promotes religious liberty (infiltrating government with theocracy). He demonstrates he still doesn’t understand the US Constitution OR the Establishment clause, and further uses tax payer resources to promote a specific religious view.

Mike, if you want to brag to your friends at church or to your co-workers about the award, go for it ‘Mr. Wear My religion on my sleeve’ but stop using tax dollars to promote Christianity.

I just finished reading American Lion, the book about President Andrew Jackson, here is passage from the book that I think Mayor Huether should read;

A third early president—Andrew Jackson—was similarly convinced that the Establishment Clause prohibited presidents from declaring a national day of prayer. Though a devout Christian, Jackson was prepared to veto a proposal by Senator Henry Clay to declare a day of prayer and fasting. His veto message would have explained that, although he personally was convinced of the “efficacy of prayer in all times,” the Constitution “carefully separated sacred from civilian concerns,” and accordingly he believed it his “duty to preserve this separation and to abstain from any act which may tend to an amalgamation perilous to both.” Jon Meacham, AMERICAN LION: ANDREW JACKSON IN THE WHITE HOUSE 207 (2008) (quoting draft veto message). Once his opposition was made known, the proposal died without the need for him to veto it. Id.

Using Winter Wonderland as an example for separation of church and state

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As I was pondering the snow plow issue and all the crazy letters to the editor of people defending the violation of the establishment clause (because, you know, none of these people would be willing to paint Jesus Christ on the sides of their vehicles, well within their 1st Amendment rights, but defend it on government property). It reminded me of a discussion about what to name ‘Winter Wonderland’ when first proposed during the Munson administration. I remember there was a brief discussion when naming it, I think one of the suggestions was ‘Christmas at the Falls’. Not sure who got involved (City Attorney?) but I fondly remember someone within city government recommending it takes on a generic term not associated with a religious holiday. Smart move.

So what does this have to do with Jesus plows? It seems there are people who are intelligent enough about Constitutional law that work for the city (or worked for them at one time) to know you can’t cross that line while using tax dollars. So Huether shouldn’t act so surprised that this has become an issue. Of course, Huether knew nothing about local government or history of it until he started to run for mayor. History isn’t his strong suit.

As for the display itself, While I think it is a great idea, I think it could be done differently. Other cities do similiar displays but they have businesses volunteer the expense and labor and use it as an opportunity for teambuilding around Christmas. Workers and their families of the businesses that donate volunteer their time to set up the display then the city foots the bill of the electricity. They do have sponsors, but city employees do all the set-up. In fact, mostly public works department workers from the forestry division begin assembling the display starting October 1st. Which I find ironic in itself. One time when I questioned the city about project TRIM and why the city’s forestry department just didn’t trim trees that residences couldn’t reach in the boulevard, they replied, “We don’t have enough staff or enough time.” But taking almost two months to put up Christmas lights, plenty of time for. Just imagine how many trees could be trimmed in that same time period?

Once again, the city proves it’s priorities towards citizens and the law.

 

Argus Ed Board: Paint over Snowplows

First, I would like to say that I like this new and improved ED Board, they are not pulling any punches.

Secondly, I do understand the right to your opinion and freedom of expression. I will defend anyone to create art, but please, use your own canvas, not my tax dollars to promote your opinion.

As for the ‘art’ argument. What the Lutheran school kids painted on the plows ‘WAS NOT’ art. They simply copied a popular image from the internet. That’s it. It is one thing to say ‘artistic expression’ it is a whole other ball of wax to ‘plagiarize’.

With that being said, there are two great lessons here. First, the obvious, promoting religion on government owned property is unconstitutional. I expand on it during the council meeting public input (FF:6:18).

Secondly, copying someone else’s ‘art’ or ‘design’ is also a No-No.

But I think the Argus Ed board states it very well;

Obviously, there should have been clearer guidelines on the types of messages that would be acceptable for the art project in the first place. Someone in the city should be assigned to review the artwork before it’s put on public equipment for public display anyway.

Would there be no oversight to what community groups might paint on park benches or city streets during a beautification project? Or on city buses, for that matter?

Well there are guidelines, the city has them for private businesses in the sign code, and they must be followed. There is also a volunteer commission that is called the Visual Art Commission that approves public art and the use of public art. They should weigh in on these guidelines.

We trust the city is working to clarify the parameters of this project to avoid future problems.

But recognizing this unique conflict and removing the religious messages would not have meant denying the Christian beliefs displayed.

It would have reinforced the notion that governments can’t favor one religion or belief set over another.

Exactly! It really is that simple. But instead we have a mayor who has to politicize EVERYTHING! Sometimes Mike, we just want you to make a fair and just decision, not take sides.

Have Coke and a Smile

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UPDATE: Compromise on Snowplows?

They are going to use a disclaimer. Sorry, but this won’t hold up in court. Huether give it up.

Here is a copy of the letter the attorney from Freedom From Religion Foundation sent to the city attorney: Freedomfromreligion

As you can see, he states several cases that show this is unconstitutional.

disclaimer

A little inspirational reading for the mayor (click to enlarge):

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plow

IMAGE: READER SUBMISSION

Heck, with a snowplow like this, the snow would melt at impact!

As any intelligent person that understands the US Constitution and 1st Amendment, and Jon Arneson would know, you can see where this is headed;

Arneson believes having those painting on city property puts the City into a corner where, by law, it would be seen as an endorsement of religion. He says U.S. Supreme Court rulings dealing with religion and government over the past 30 years support that.

Duh?!

I guess we are supposed to hear a resolution today from the city, I suspect if we don’t hear one by the weekend, that the city decided to quietly paint over the plow blades. We will see. I did notice it is already circulating the national news that our Mayor is Constitutionally inept. There was a blurb about it in the USA Today.

 

 

UPDATE: Mayor Huether proves once again he doesn’t understand the US Constitution

christ-plow

Triple-M doesn’t realize the Lutheran School doesn’t own the snowplows, we do, the taxpayers, while they can practice their ‘freedom of expression’ on government owned property, they cannot promote a particular religion (it really is that simple). If they want to paint privately owned school property, more power to them;

But Huether seemed adamant that the plow blades wouldn’t be removed.

“We are not going to be painting over those plow blades. We will not be painting over them unless I get some Supreme Court case that says that I have to,” Huether said.

Heuther is also reluctant to suggest changes to the “Paint the Plows” program for fear of trampling on the First Amendment rights of participating schools.

“That’s one of the things we’re struggling with,” said Huether. “How do we move forward and still allow people to have freedom of expression?”

Mr. Huether may just get his wish. Watch for the ACLU to be all over this. I also suspect the NCAC may jump into this. So now the mayor is willing to waste tax dollars on Supreme Court cases because he doesn’t have a clue about our US Constitution. How did I know he was going to take this stance?

During the recent informational today, Staggers was defending the plows, calling it a ‘political issue’. No Kermit, it is a Constitutional issue. It is one thing to ‘express’ yourself about a season (winter) and it seems all the other schools figured it out, it is entirely another issue to be disguising ‘artistic expression’ with a ‘Biblical message’.

Also, last I checked, artistic expression relates to somewhat original ideas, there was nothing original from stenciling already existing designs. Someone else also expressed to me we may be opening up ourselves to copyright infringement laws with Coca-Cola.

I will give city attorney Fiddle-Faddle credit, he told councilor Staggers that it was a ‘legal’ issue, and it is, a Constitutional legal issue. And Fiddle should be well-versed in them, he has plenty of case law proving the city doesn’t understand Constitutional law.

The Villagers have spoken already, LEAVE PUBLIC INPUT ALONE

A friend recently sent some questions to the entire Sioux Falls city council about some different topics, one of them was about the public ‘engaging’ the council during public input (and how it isn’t happening). Council Chair, Dean Karsky responded in this manner;

I have been toying with the idea of moving the public input to the Informational Meeting as it would allow for more interaction with the Council and possibly engage the public more with us.  Still working on the pro’s and con’s of doing so, input on the matter is welcome.

Here is my input Dean, LEAVE IT AS IS!

There is absolutely no reason why the council can’t ‘engage’ the public during public input at the city council meetings. During the Munson administration, the council interacted all the time with the public.

If this is a matter of ‘time’ I should remind the council that they are getting PAID to attend the meetings, and the public, which comes on their own time to testify, pays those wages. If they don’t like hearing public input, or they think the meetings are to long, or they don’t get paid enough, then please, resign. There is nothing more annoying then a politician running for office then complaining about their duties once they get elected. Then why did you run?

Lastly, I do partially agree with public input at the informational. In fact several of the citizen advocates in the community have discussed that it would be nice to have public input at the informational. The problem with only limiting it to the informational is timing. The meeting is at 4 PM when many people cannot attend because of work conflicts. By all means, have public input at the informational, but also keep it at 7 PM to so working folks can testify.

Once again, the council is out of touch with the public on this one, just like snowgates, they seem to want to do the opposite of what the public wants for their convenience. Their convenience is of little importance to good government, the public’s convenience is.

UPDATE 2: City of Sioux Falls Crack Legal team agrees, Jesus plows violate separation clause

UPDATE 2:

“Students at Lutheran High School of Sioux Falls spent time and effort designing the plow blade they submitted for the city’s Paint the Plows event, Principal Derek Bult said.”

You mean original designs like THIS.

I figured this was coming. I’m wondering when Christians, or for that fact, any religious sect are going to figure out the separation clause is there to protect you from government’s interference in your religious lives and beliefs;

Two private schools in Sioux Falls have been asked to repaint city-owned snow plow blades after a group complained about student artwork with Christian themes.

I think Amanda sums it up very nicely

Some residents might be upset about a protest of Christian-themed art on city snow plows, but all they need to do is consider a role reversal, Amanda Novotny said.

“It would have no business on a plow, I would never do it, but if I painted a plow that said ‘There is no god,’ I think people would be very, very upset about that,” she said.

This commenter to the story also makes a fine point;

It is not discrimination against A religious establishment, it is protection for ALL religious belief.

Exactly!

This is going to get ugly. Already talked to a city councilor who has been getting blowback about it.

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IMAGE: Facebook.

 

I agree with Mayor Huether, let’s end bullying in Sioux Falls, let’s start at Carnegie & City Hall

I have a little different perspective on it then he does, as I am sure you suspected.

While I do agree with him that work place/school discrimination and domestic violence is intolerable I do draw a line with freedom of speech. While saying ‘naughty hurtful words’ should be discouraged, the 1st Amendment is pretty clear about our constitutional rights. In yesterday’s press conference, Huether referred to a FB comment he read that said (in reference to the man getting punched outside of Wiley’s) “LOL. Maybe he should have minded his own business.” While the LOL was not needed (Lot’s of Laughs, is what Huether said it meant, which made me LMFAO*) I kind of agree with the rest of the comment to a point.

If it was a different situation, I would have definitely said something to the lady, but since the situation occurred while everyone involved was probably tanked outside of Wiley’s (a place known for it’s fighting problems) probably not a time to take a stand. For example, last night me and about 5 other people got doused with beer when someone behind us threw a cup. I turned around and saw some wannabe bikers laughing. I certainly could have went over and asked who the f’ing wise guy was, but you know what? I minded my own business, and guess what, no one got hurt. Did the gentleman outside of Wiley’s deserve to get punched? Nope. Violence is never a solution. Do I commend him for sticking up for himself and friends? Definitely! But like I said, if you put yourself in certain situations, there can be unintended consequences, especially when fueled by alcohol. Just look at the problems associated with drinking at Van Eps Park.

There are situations where you need to turn the other cheek, or you just might get punched in the face. It’s your choice I guess, like I said, the 1st Amendment guarantees us the right to pretty much say what we want as private citizens. It is clear though that employers can’t discriminate in this manner, and assaulting your spouse or bystanders is not included in this right. Please, let’s all stop punching each other over ‘words’. What an incredible waste of time and energy, and also, let’s stop crying over spilt milk.

This is where I disagree with mayor Huether on bullying. He seems to think this is about school kids, minorities, domestic assaults or gays, it is much more encompassing then that.

He lacks to mention peer bullying (most people think of this kind of bullying going on in school between classmates). It is also an issue in the workplace. In fact I believe it is an issue at Carnegie Hall.

I have seen city councilors, the mayor, city directors, city employees and citizens all bully each other at the meetings. In fact on one occasion, which still irks me to this day (the mayor says it is okay to get mad about bullying) is when Councilor Erpenbach bullied the snowgate petitioners and shut down public comment in support of an early election. Each week I have also watched several city councilors bully citizens when they say something they don’t like in public testimony. The mayor on several occasions has cut off councilors during discussions and asked for a roll call vote. They are all guilty, including myself, when I offer ultimatums during public testimony. I apologize.

I have also witnessed bullying by code enforcement officers, police officers and the city attorney’s office. In fact, a former city attorney bullied one of my friends for seven years which cost him over $40K.

Like I said, I am all for free speech, citizens have a right to address their government about concerns, but public officials don’t have a right to bully citizens when we bring up these concerns. I saw this recently when the city refused to pay for damages the SFPD SWAT team created. In another incident a guy is being taken to small claims court over not building a dumpster enclosure fast enough. So if city officials are going to hold press conferences to tackle the problem of bullying, they must first look in the mirror and get their own house in order.  I’m glad the mayor brought this issue to light, and I hope he looks at the bullying going on by the employees he manages. If Huether believes in leading by example it is imperative he sets a good example to city employees and directors. The same goes for the council (None of them attended the press conference yesterday).

BTW, Huether mentioned bullying that goes on on blogs. So I thought it would only be appropriate to comment on his press conference, on my blog.

*LMFAO. Which means ‘Laugh my funny arm off’

The City’s Lack of Transparency on the EC Siding is NOT an isolated incident

Since Huether has been mayor, there have been many instances of the city not being transparent with the public and the council and I see this lack of transparency getting worse.

Here are just a few ‘examples’ of the city’s (mostly the mayor’s office and council leadership) very non transparent moments;

- Holding a press conference to announce the building of two new Walmarts without Planning or Council approval.

- The mayor’s wife and him investing in TIF’s and other developments that are recommended by the Planning Department, a department he manages.

- Allowing Community Development to give an affordable housing grant to a developer who was chair of the Planning Commission, a clear conflict of interest

- Allowing Council Chair Erpenbach to CENSOR snowgate election testimony, which put off snowgate implementation for a full year.

- Mayor Huether was not required to list all of his investments on his campaign finance report, but other NON-incumbent candidates were asked to do so

- Two hearings on municipal election ballot language because petitioners were NOT allowed to proof the language before ballots were printed

- Asked the city to provide $500K towards a new indoor tennis facility without mentioning eventually his name would be on the side of the building.

- Sanford bought events center domain name before they were announced the title sponsor

- Spellerberg Park picked as location of new indoor pool before a supposed resolution on the quit claim deed

The EC siding secrecy is just another notch in the bed post for a mayor and administration that sleeps with a lot of secrets. And just think, these are the ones we KNOW about . . .