Week is devoted to separation of church and state
Published: Monday, January 10, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 11:39 p.m.
Gainesville residents who want strict separation between religion and government: your week is nearly here.
A proclamation will be read today at the Gainesville City Commission meeting declaring Jan. 16-22 "Separation of Church and State Week" in the city.
It is important that the city recognize the concept of a separation between church and state, particularly after an election in which moral values are thought to have played a large role, said Mark Mayfield, Webmaster for the Humanist Society of Gainesville, which requested the proclamation.
Following a proclamation of "Christian Heritage Week" in November, Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan suggested that any group that could show it had made a significant contribution to America could apply for a proclamation.
Jewish and Islamic groups were contacted about the offer, but declined a proclamation, Hanrahan said
Along with comments on the U.S. Constitution, the proclamation points to a letter written 203 years ago this month from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, in which he calls for a "wall of separation between Church and State."
Mayfield said he and other humanists are not anti-religious, but don't want the government involved in religious decisions.
"It's definitely not an attempt to say people that believe are wrong or uneducated or anything like that," Mayfield said. "Its our belief that this country was founded to be neutral toward religion so that people are free to believe in any religion or no religion."
The Alachua County Commission may get an earful of protest about a decision to four-lane SW 24th Avenue at its meeting Tuesday.
Several residents are expected to speak to the commission at 9:30 a.m. on the proposed widening, which has been a source of controversy and political flip-flops for several years with developer Clark Butler, who wants a four-lane road so he can expand his shopping centers, at its focus.
Opponents say that conflicts with a plan that envisions the area as a student village because of its proximity to the University of Florida, and commissioners voted last year to pave the limerocked road as a two-lane street. But then a $3 million appropriation to four-lane it appeared in the federal budget.
Newly elected Commissioner Paula DeLaney proved to be a swing vote on the issue with the board deciding last month to pursue four-laning it. DeLaney said four lanes are best for the future.
The project snared Commission Chairwoman Cynthia Chestnut in an ethics issue because of her friendship with Butler. But DeLaney said she will have no such problems.
DeLaney's husband, Bruce DeLaney, is director of real estate for the UF Foundation. But the foundation has no stake in any of the land in the area.
"There is nothing to my knowledge that would involve (the foundation)," DeLaney said. "I'm quite sure, with Clark Butler being the neighbor, the university has been working with him and hoping that at some point in the future they might get a large gift out of him. But other than that, there has been nothing specific."
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