June 8, 2017 – Milwaukee, WI – The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has sent a letter to Oconomowoc Mayor David Nold, refuting ill-reasoned claims by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that a pair of signs on city property violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on government establishment of religion. The FFRF is a liberal, Madison-based organization that is openly hostile to any form of religiosity in public display or discourse.
The two “Welcome” signs are maintained by private individuals, have been in place for decades without having drawn concern or second thought from Oconomowoc residents, and certainly do not meet the legal threshold established by the United States Supreme Court as a government-sanctioned establishment of religion. Neither the signs’ construction nor installation used government resources.
As the letter to Mayor Nold notes, “Although the FFRF won’t tell you so, context matters in these situations. We understand that the signs have been in place for over sixty years. One has a Kiwanis marker that apparently dates to 1953. That would mean that the signs are actually over 60 years old. While there is a cross attached to the signs (no doubt reflecting the historic fact that churches in Oconomowoc were Christian), nothing on the signs endorses a religious principle. The signs welcome people to Oconomowoc but they take no position on anything. They exclude no one.”
Further, “This conclusion is buttressed by the fact that the City has its own separate Welcome to Oconomowoc signs in various locations, and by the fact that the Kiwanis, Lions, and Rotary also have welcome signs in the City.”
A copy of the WILL letter to Mayor Nold is available here.
Pictures of the signs in question follow.