110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
DeLand: It was Henry's vision, not religion
City answers complaint about symbols in seal
By Jen Horton
posted Sep 12, 2013 - 10:49:06am
"DeLand was a community uniquely ahead of its time in Florida," City Attorney Darren Elkind wrote, in response to a challenge to symbols in DeLand's city seal. "It was intended from the beginning to be a community rich in education, culture and charitable acts."
Elkind's Sept. 9 letter answers a demand by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The organization asked DeLand to either stop using, or change, its 131-year-old city seal.
Elkind said DeLand's history, and the history of the seal, indicate that it was created without a religious agenda.
"Henry DeLand's vision for the city he founded was one in which the people would have opportunities for education and cultural enlightenment, and where charitable acts would abound amongst citizens who would regularly help one another," Elkind wrote. "In recognition of this laudably and secular vision for the city, the founding fathers chose the obvious symbol for the city's seal — the symbol of 'faith, hope and charity.'"
The seal depicts those values using a cross, an anchor and a heart.
Nothing in the history of the seal suggests it was adopted to promote any particular religion, or even religion in general, Elkind said.
DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar said Elkind's response was well done. The mayor was also glad to see the city attorney's opinion was consistent with the city's desire to continue to use the city seal.
"To me, the city seal is very much a part of the city's rich history," Apgar said. "It is very much part of the fabric of DeLand."
Commissioner Leigh Matusick said she is confident in Elkind's answer to the Americans United challenge.
"I think our city attorney did a lot of research and quoted a lot of specific court cases," she said.
Among those, Elkind cited cases in the 11th Circuit that were decided in favor of allowing governmental entities to continue using symbols that might be considered religious.
Matusick said several constituents have come up to her to advocate for keeping the city seal.
"It's really brought the community together," she said.
The seal, and what it means, are embodied in the people of DeLand, and she hopes to see both the symbolism and the activism continue.
"We've got some of the most generous people in the city," she said.
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