A poster containing a segment of a Bible verse describing marriage as being between a man and a woman — which had been hanging behind the customer-service desk in an office where Elbert County issues marriage licenses — has been removed.
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The poster is the property of Elbert County Clerk and Recorder Dallas Schroeder, a Republican. It includes a caption quoting a portion of the English Standard Version translation of First Corinthians 7:2.
In an August email exchange between Schroeder and a group of public officials, some of whom expressed concerns about issuing same-sex marriage licenses, Schroeder wrote, “There is no way to miss it if you are in for a marriage license. It is a picture of a bride standing on a hill with the groom walking up the hill to meet her. On the bottom I have a portion of the verse in I Corinthians where Paul says, `Each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.’ And cite the verse.”
A copy of the email exchange and a photo of the poster found their way to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a Madison, Wisconsin-based 501(c)(3). The foundation, which describes itself as an “association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics),” wrote four emails to Schroeder between Nov. 20 and Dec. 9 requesting that he remove the poster.
In one email, Andrew Seidel, the foundation staff attorney, wrote, “When citizens are employed by the government they agree to accept certain restrictions. The Supreme Court put it very clearly: `when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.’ ”
In another email sent to the three members of the Elbert County Board of County Commissioners on Nov. 19, county resident Jim Duvall — the husband of Jill Duvall, chairperson of the Elbert County Democratic Party — objected to the poster and warned, “This will be the focus of another lawsuit if not removed.”
Schroeder has said the poster had been up for 15 months with no negative comments from anyone other than Jim Duvall. However, this claim was countered by Jill Duvall in an Elbert County News story published on Dec. 3 as well as in a television news story that aired Dec. 7 on Denver’s Channel 7.
Schroeder could not be reached for comment, but he did send an email confirming the poster’s removal to the Duvalls’ attorney, Lark House Fogel Law Office, on the evening of Dec. 9.
“We’re very happy the county did the right thing,” Seidel said. ‘It was very clear that that was promoting his religious beliefs, and it was done to intimidate people he does not like. The government cannot do that.”
Jim Duvall said that he was pleased the situation could be resolved without litigation.
“That wasn’t going to be beneficial to anyone,” he said.
Elbert County has issued two same-sex marriage licenses since a June 26 Supreme Court ruling lifted bans on same-sex marriage.
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