The sheriff of Louisiana's Bossier Parish says that despite objections from outside the area, he has no plans to cancel his July 4 rallying offering food, music, and prayer.
"Not only am I elected to serve the people of Bossier Parish, but I live here and my family lives here," Sheriff Julian Whittington told The Shreveport Times
"I think Bossier Parish is a better place with Christianity and Christian values involved in it. I am an elected official. I’m also a citizen here. I think this is what’s best for us. I don’t work for anybody in Washington. What they do, what they say, I couldn’t really care less."
Whittington's second annual "In God We Trust" rally will use no public money, but will take place on parish property, and that gave state American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Marjorie Esman reason to complain.
"If the event is held on sheriff’s property, then by definition it is a public event that sends a message of government endorsement of Christianity. The building is paid for by public funds, and maintained by public funds," Esman told the Times.
"If the religious messages are overtly Christian and suggest that Christianity is better than other religions, and if there is a link to public funding or support, this would overstep the law. In any event, it sends a message to Bossier residents who do not adhere to Christianity that they are less than equal and not worthy of support by their sheriff."
The event features free food and children's activities, and will honor Bossier Posse members from World War II as well as recognizing the Bossier Young Marines.
But announcements of the even also say it will feature "patriotic and God-lifting music," which the ACLU also objects to, said Esman, noting that exceeds anything previous court rulings have allowed at public events.
A May U.S. Supreme Court ruling stated that a prayer before a public meeting was allowable because such meetings are part of tradition and are brief. Also, the case involving the town of Greece, N.Y., noted that though Christian prayers are the norm, other religions are not excluded.
Bossier City resident Holly Lanaghan told the paper she agrees with the sheriff, and so do the people of the parish.
"Everybody has a right to their opinion," she said. "I think the minority has forced a lot on us. The majority of people believe in God."
Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, attended last year's inaugural event and has prepared a taped message for this year.
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