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'Offend no one' notion should offend all who respect free speech
The 'offend-no-one' crowd just doesn't understand the First Amendment. 'Offend no one' notion should offend all who respect free speech

Date published: 1/9/2005

CHARLOTTESVILLE--There seems to be a new code of conduct in American society in which the golden rule is "offend no one."

At least that appears to be the case in Riverside, Calif., after city officials gave in to a threat of a lawsuit by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and agreed to cover up a Theodore Roosevelt quote in the Riverside County Historic Courthouse.

The quote in question, by an American who was the 26th president of our nation, states that "The true Christian is the true citizen." It is engraved in gold on a mahogany wall in a courtroom of the County Superior Court, one of many quotes engraved on the court's walls, some secular in nature, that reflect the personal and diverse philosophies of the nation's past leaders, including Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

Although these quotes have been displayed on the court's walls for more than 70 years without any formal complaint, the ADL claims that the Roosevelt quote "marginalizes" non-Christians who come into contact with the courthouse and, thus, needs to be removed.

The Riverside Courthouse and the ADL have now been sued by a local resident who claims that California preservation laws make it a crime to alter a historical site in any way. The Riverside Courthouse was designated a "cultural resource" and a "designated historical site" many years ago. The suit also charges the ADL with engaging in censorship.

Yet this incident is about more than just censoring Teddy Roosevelt--it's about censoring anyone and anything that challenges an individual's or group's notions of what is appropriate or politically correct, especially when religious expression is involved.

Religious symbols have been among the forms of expression most targeted for attack--from the tiny cross on Los Angeles County's seal (which was removed after the ACLU threatened a lawsuit) to small religious images, including a student-drawn angel, on some commemorative tiles in the hallways of Columbine High School in remembrance of the students killed during the horrific shootings that took place there. The tiles were chiseled out by school officials who feared that the religious imagery might violate the so-called "separation of church and state."

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