The L.A. County Board of Supervisors will vote on a new design for the county seal today, after having rejected yesterday’s request for a temporary restraining order against the altering of the current seal which pictures a cross.
The Thomas More Law Center filed the suit against the county on behalf of Los Angeles County Employee Ernesto Vasquez who believed removing the Latin cross from the seal was a show of the county’s bias against Christians.
“The signal they are sending out to all Christians is that (the county has) now drawn a line in the sand and (the county is) showing disfavor toward Christians,” said Edward White III, an associate counsel with the Thomas More Law Center.
If approved, the temporary restraining order would have prohibited supervisors from changing the seal until the group’s related lawsuit against the county is resolved, a spokesman for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said Monday.
Other L.A. County residents have also testified in previous hearings on the issue, saying they believed the cross image represents the importance of missions in the founding of the county and removing it would be equivalent to denying history.
"In my city, that history of oil is really important, especially to the old-timers,” said Signal Hill Mayor Erin Ward told a local newspaper. “They’re going to modernize the seal and take out most of the history in my opinion.”
In the proposed seal design to appear before the Board today, the cross is removed from the top of the Hollywood bowl, an image depicting the San Gabriel mission replaces oil derricks, and a Native American woman replaces the center image of a Greek goddess.
Residents are also protesting other alterations to the seal. Signal Hill oilmen said the replacement of the oil derricks neglects the region’s historical role as a major supplier of crude oil.
Meanwhile, David R. Hernandez, a Republican congressional candidate from the San Fernando Valley, has launched a petition aimed at collecting 341,212 valid signatures by March 1, 2005 to create a countywide ordinance requiring the county to keep the original 1957 design of the seal.
The Board voted off the cross from the seal after they received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union threatening a lawsuit. The ACLU, which has been active in the removal of cross symbols in various locations, argued that the cross was an unconstitutional government endorsement of Christianity.
Opponents against the cross’ removal also say the redesign is a waste of taxpayer money. Officials have estimated the cost of replacing signs on thousands of county buildings at nearly $1 million.
The petition is available at the www.ourfirstamendment.org Web site.