God Bless Champaign County

Posted by Phil Ferguson on October 30th, 2012 – 12 Comments – Posted in Uncategorized

Last Friday I went and voted early at the office of the Champaign (Illinois) County Clerk’s office.  I learned about early voting several years back and have done it every time since then.  For Champaign County you just walk in, show your ID, answer a few questions and they give you your ballot.  It is quick, easy and painless.  The whole process takes only about 10 minutes.  You can even go to their web site and pull up your ballot in advance so, you will know every choice you have.  It is a nice system and I recommend that everyone go vote early!

This year I noticed a sign on the wall so every person could see it.  It looked just like this….

God Bless Champaign County - flag

I was surprised!  This is not Alabama.  This is a very liberal college community but, I do have to admit the cities of Champaign and Urbana are surrounded with several small god fearin’ towns.

I mentioned to two of the clerks in the office that some would consider that sign inappropriate and maybe unconstitutional.  One of them was very nice about it but the other had a little bit of an attitude and even suggested that I should talk to Mr. Hulten about it.  I have to admit that the though had crossed my mind but her suggestion that I should talk to him seemed to be the last little nudge that I needed to ask to see him.  Mr. Gordy Hulten is the Champaing County Clerk.  This young lady went and found him for me.

I am going to recount our conversation the best I can below.  Before I start, I wanted to say that Mr. Hulten was courteous and polite for our entire conversation.

This is a crude approximation of our conversation….

GH (that is Mr. Gordy Hulten Picture top right) – How may I help you sir?

Me (that’s me) – I just wanted to see if I can take a minute of your time to talk about your sign.

GH – What sign is that?

Me – The one with the flag over there on the wall.

GH – OK.

Me – It’s my understanding that all people are welcome in this office.

GH – They  are.

Me – Well, that sign does not make me feel welcome and I don’t think this public office should take a stand on the existence or lack of existence of any deities.

GH – I understand and I thank you for sharing your concerns.

Me – o_O

Me – Uh, ok.  Just to be clear…. I am formally asking you to take down the sign.

GH – Thank you for your input, I will take that into consideration.

Me – oh? (a little shocked)

GH – Yes sir, thank you for coming in…. (attempting to close the conversation and starting to walk a way)

Me – uh, how will you notify me of your decision?

GH – Excuse me?

Me – Well, if you are taking into consideration that means at some time you will decide.  You did not take my name, phone number or e-mail.  How will you notify me of your decision.

GH – I see.  Well, let’s just put it this way.  The sign is not coming down.  That is my decision.

Me – is there someone else here I can talk to?

GH – No, why?

Me – I was hoping that my request would receive more than 5 seconds of thought.

GH – Sir, It has!  Your request has been made by several people and we have had long discussions about it.

Me – I’m sorry, I got a little carried away.  I did not know that.

GH – No problem.

Me – So, if so many people complain…. Why is it still up?

GH – That sign has been there for 15 years – No problems!

Me – But, I am telling you it is a problem and you just said that others have complained in the past.

GH – Well it is staying right there.

Me – I would like to propose an experiment.  For just one week you cover up god and put up Allah.  I bet that most of the christians that come in here would complain and you would take it down.

GH – We are not here to perform experiments.  Good day sir.


So, dear reader.  Am I over reacting?  Is this a violation of the separation of church and state, not a big deal or total legal but kind of a inconsiderate thing to put up in a government building?

What do you think the christians would say if the sign said Allah Bless America?

Please share your thought and considered legal opinions.  Thanks!

Champaign County Clerk
1776 East Washington Street
Urbana, IL 61802

Phone Numbers:
Election Services & Voter Registration (217) 384-3724

Fax: (217) 384-1241
E-mail: mail@champaigncountyclerk.com

  1. Jimmy Williamson says:

    You are not overreacting in my opinion. In fact I think a formal complaint is in order.

  2. JJ says:

    The tyranny of the majority – precisely what the constitution was designed to overcome.

  3. Sven says:

    If God is real, and chooses to bless America, fantastic, if God isn’t real, then it doesnt mean much, other than the thought behind it being a positive one. I’d also think many (Christian or otherwise) might have trouble with the “Allah bless America” since it was Allah who told the 9/11 terrorists to do what they did.

    • Ralphy says:

      Allah did not tell anyone to do anything.
      Also, isn’t Allah just “God” in Arabic? If you change the word, the message remains the same.

  4. ErickaMJohnson says:

    You can also call the Voter Protection Hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE (866.687.8683)

    They deal with intentional voter disenfranchisement.

  5. It’s not even a tyranny of the majority it seems, but an arbitrary decision by one person in the face of multiple complaints. You should contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation and ask if they’ll have their lawyers write a formal complaint.

  6. Andrew Rhodes says:

    I’d recommend contacting any or all of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the ACLU of Illinois. At the very least, they can give you some guidance. Frankly, the attitude of the head person there DOES seem to indicate they KNOW it is a violation and they don’t care that it is.

  7. Glock21 says:

    Gordy is a friend of mine. He’s one of the most fair and level headed people I know even though we disagree on an array of political issues. I haven’t seen the banner myself, though I’ve been to the office while Gordy was holding office a few times for paperwork (including my civil union to JustKem) and I failed to notice the banner. Maybe I was distracted, or maybe it is more prominent than memory serves. Allah is just the Arabic word for “God” so any complaints about such a change would be received would be more xenophobic than anything.

    Depending on the details, I think it’s probably not worth making a fuss about. Though if there were open atheists on the ballot, I think it could then be within the gray area of electioneering. But Gordy is in public office and it comes with public scrutiny. I don’t think the office rules will change even if one votes against him. Is it better to have an objective Republican who is truly dedicated to ensuring the integrity of the vote, or a Democrat we know wouldn’t touch this issue in a central Illinois district with a 10 foot pole?

    Just my opinion though. He’s on the ballot. He’s out there for public scrutiny. Like with most situations though, civility works best with a reasonable man. He may not be swayed, but by being civil he’ll at least hear you.

    • MrPibb7182 says:

      I think the part that you are missing is that whether it be Allah, or God, or Vishnu, or Buddha, implying there be any god or that he endorses America or any other country is a violation of the separation of church and state. Freedom of religion also affords us the option of no religion. I don’t get all twisted up about stuff like this. We definitely have more pressing issues when it comes to civil rights, but to be honest, the easiest way for this to be avoided is for christians to not show the arrogance and entitlement they show in the US, feeling it is their right and obligation to push their religion on others.

  8. fred says:

    “It’s been that way for years” just doesn’t cut it as an excuse. After all, the US embraced slavery for the better part of a century, discrimination by skin color for nearly two centuries, and we are still in the dawn of achieving LGBT equality. None of those long-standing institutions would have been put down if we had accepted “It’s been that way for years” as a valid justification.

    • Glock21 says:

      True, the tradition excuse doesn’t carry any weight. It’s a logical fallacy. But would a Bears fan be turned off because someone working there had Packers fan posters open to view?

      • Remonsterable says:

        That’s not a fair comparison. There is no constitutional amendment regarding establishment of football teams. There is one for religion – it’s a special form of speech that works within a different framework than other types of free speech.

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