Twenty-plus years ago, the first major federal trial I covered for The Oklahoman involved a dispute over a religious symbol on an affluent Oklahoma City suburb's official seal.
This was the lede for the May 25, 1994, front-page story that I wrote:
Residents' perception of a Christian cross on Edmond's city seal emerged as a key issue Tuesday in the first day of a federal trial to determine the symbol's fate.
A Unitarian-Universalist minister and three other plaintiffs testified passionately about their disdain for the cross on the seal, which they contend reduces non-Christians to second-class citizens.
But defense attorney Burns Hargis pressed plaintiffs about their backgrounds, questioning whether they could be considered "average citizens. " Hargis, representing the city, sought to portray the Rev. Wayne Robinson and other plaintiffs as overly sensitive.
Robinson, minister of Edmond's Channing Unitarian-Universalist Church, found his background and his motives under particular scrutiny.
Hargis questioned Robinson about his "love-hate relationship with Christianity," noting the minister's Christian background as a Pentecostal Holiness and Methodist minister who once served in a leading role under Oral Roberts.
"You used to love it, now you really hate it? " Hargis said, in reference to Robinson's views on Christianity.
U.S. District Judge David Russell is hearing the case.
After the trial, the district court judge ruled that the seal depicted the city's history and did not violate the constitutional prohibition against government establishing a religion. However, an appeals court later overturned that ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, forcing the removal of the cross.
I was reminded of that case in reading a welcomed Los Angeles Times follow-up on a more recent court decision in Oklahoma: