Stars And Stripes And Crosses?: Florida's Clashing Symbols

All citizens who need to do business with Gov. Jeb Bush's top lawyer must walk past a small American flag that is a little different than the one you might be used to seeing. Superimposed over the stars is a white cross.

An aide to the governor claims that the card has been posted in the reception area of General Counsel Raquel Rodriguez's office for some time and was intended as "a tribute to those brave souls who were lost in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11."

"It is unfortunate certain elected representatives and advocacy groups find it offensive. They certainly have the right to their opinion. However, the governor does not share their sentiments."

With our without the sympathy of the governor, a symbol effectively declaring America to be a "Christian nation" is inappropriate to many in the state. "To me, it's offensive and hurtful," said state Sen. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston. Schultz, who is Jewish, said she understand that employees have a right to their own personal icons but areas open to public view should be treated more delicately.

Such symbols in a public space creates an environment of exclusion for adherents of other religions and none at all. All Americans have a right to do business in a government office without being made to feel like second-class citizens.

This is not the first separation of church and state controversy for Gov. Bush. Just three months ago, the Web site for the Department of Juvenile Justice linked to a Religious Right group that encouraged people to profess their faith in Jesus Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to control their lives.

Other agencies under Bush have implemented controversial prayer programs and the governor has been a tireless advocate of "faith-based" social services and school voucher schemes.