January 2016 Church & State - January 2015

Addition Of Cross To California County Seal Sparks Controversy

  AU admin

A proposed change to the Los Angeles County, Calif., seal that would incorporate a religious symbol has led to a war of words between a county official and a newspaper’s editorial board.

The Los Angeles County seal has long contained a variety of symbols, including a representation of the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, a Catholic mission founded in the 18th century.

For about the last 10 years, the seal has not contained any religious symbols because the mission itself did not have a cross on the exterior from 1987-2009 thanks to an earthquake and a theft. But the mission now has a large cross on top of the building, and some county supervisors want the seal to reflect that change.

In 2014, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to add a cross to the seal. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California subsequently challenged that action.

The Los Angeles Times ran an editorial that was critical of the revised seal, a move that did not sit well with Mike Antonovich, a member of the county board. He called the newspaper “secular extremest” [sic], according to court documents.

When the Times recently found out about Antonovich’s criticism, it wrote a scathing editorial in response.

“First off, the word is spelled “extremist.” With an “I,” the Times wrote. “Also, supervisor, please don’t leave out this page’s criticism just last week of Irvine City Council members who wanted to post ‘In God We Trust’ in huge letters on the wall behind them so that no one who attends the meetings could possibly miss the council’s political statement about God. Come to think of it, we have also argued that public meetings should not begin with invocations to Jesus Christ, and that giant monuments to Christianity should not dominate military cemeteries that include the bodies of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Chris­tians, non-believers and others.”

But the Times did not stop there. It criticized Antonovich for being a hypocrite.

“It’s odd that a government official who has for so long been skeptical of government’s role in private life would get so bent out of shape over The Times calling for government to mind its own business and leave faith and religious symbols to the people and their houses of worship,” read the editorial.

The case, Davies v. County of Los Angeles, is ongoing.

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