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Seal's Cross Depicts History, Judge Says

Bobby Ross Jr. Published: May 26, 1994

The Rev. Wayne Robinson, one of the plaintiffs and minister of Edmond's Channing Unitarian-Universalist Church, promised an almost certain appeal. Martin Feldman, who is Jewish, also challenged the city seal.

Robinson said Russell's decision ignored precedent.

In June 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear separate appeals involving religious symbols on two Illinois city seals. The refusals upheld a lower court's ruling, which forced the removal of religious symbols from the municipal seals.

"I think this whole smoke screen of history denied the reality that thousands of people moving into Edmond have no awareness of history," Robinson said. "They see the cross as a distinctive component of the seal, which says that Edmond is Christian and most receptive to Christians. " ACLU attorney Micheal Salem argued city leaders showed a callousness toward non-Christians such as Robinson by not allowing a City Council public hearing when the cross was questioned. But Mayor Shadid testified he did not realize Robinson was non-Christian at the time.

In his ruling, Russell said the Constitution does not expect government to act like religion does not exist. The judge said he will prepare a written order, and ACLU attorney Salem declined comment until seeing it.

The Edmond seal has an obvious secular purpose in identifying city property and personnel, Russell said. He said the trial revealed no evidence of city entanglement with Christian churches, despite plaintiff testimony regarding T-shirt sales that benefited a church.

Longtime resident Robert Bryan, brother-in-law of Frances Bryan, who designed the seal in 1965, sold more than 100 T-shirts featuring the seal and "I Live In Edmond, I Like The Seal" after the controversy arose. He said he donated $1 per shirt to his church's missionary fund.

City leaders testified they did not seek action against Robert Bryan but did register the seal as a trademark and prevent others from reproducing it. Frances Bryan and O. Jerry Priest, an Edmond councilman from 1963 to 1975, both testified the cross on the seal was designed to celebrate the importance of churches at Edmond's beginning. Within two months of the Land Run, four churches and a Sunday school had become an intregal part of Edmond, Priest testified.

"There wasn't a synagogue in Edmond then and there still isn't today," Priest said. "If there had been, we would have been willing to put it on the seal. " BIOG: NAME:

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