Dec. 4, 2008
The clock in downtown Ponchatoula, Louisiana had not even struck one but like a bad dream from the past the Louisiana ACLU was back haunting city officials with threats of lawsuits if the town's Christmas Lights Festival included an illuminated cross.
Having served in public office in Louisiana I've traveled the state many times and Ponchatoula, the Strawberry Capital, is one of my favorite places. It is a quaint little southern town that most have only seen in the movies, kind of Norman Rockwellish. The downtown area is bisected by train tracks. Main Street is lined with antique stores that attract folks from around the state.
My wife's family comes from that region of the state where a majority of the people attend church and overwhelmingly identify with traditional values. This is the same area of the state where the ACLU has filed multiple suits against a school board for opening their school board meetings in prayer. The leftist lawyers also sued a local court because a picture of Jesus was in the court house building.
Why is the ACLU so active in this predominately conservative area of the country? The answer is in the federal district court, the Eastern District of Louisiana, which is a hotbed of liberal activism. Ginger Berrigan, the judge who ruled against the Tangipahoa school board on the matter of prayer and whose ruling was later overturned, is the former president of the ACLU in Louisiana appointed to the bench by Bill Clinton in 1994.
This is another example of why the courts matter, even at the lowest level of the federal system. As is the case with so many elected officials operating with tight budgets, Ponchatoula's mayor, Bob Zabbia opted not to fight the baseless claim of the ACLU for fear of what it might cost.
Tragically, it cost citizens a whole lot more in the end when their elected officials won't defend their religious heritage and freedoms.