The seal of the Village of Archbold has been replaced on promotional materials by a vibrant new logo, but the reason for the change is a matter of conjecture.
A bright azure silhouette of the State of Ohio with the proclamation “Live Archbold!” adorns the village website and will be used to advertise the community. It replaces the village seal which includes depictions of farmland, buildings, and the cause of a minor controversy – a centered illustration of a church.
In a Nov. 14 letter placed on its web page, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) takes credit for the village’s decision to swap the seal for the logo. The non-profit organization claims it convinced the Village of Archbold to remove the seal and the declaration that it’s a Christian community from its website because both violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The FFRF had sent several letters to former Archbold Mayor Jim Wyse protesting the seal and the proclamation on the village website, according to Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler. She suggested that both have likely ostracized and alienated the non-Christian segment of the community.
The self-congratulatory letter on the FFRF website quotes Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor as saying, “We’re happy that we were finally able to persuade the village. The church symbol and the declaration of Christian heritage were blatant endorsements of a particular religion.”
Archbold Mayor Jeff Fryman has an entirely different take on the issue.
“I looked at (the letter) and felt it was just a group trolling for a fight, so I advised that we not respond,” he said in a statement. “We didn’t. We heard nothing more. During this time we were already working on new community theme, commercials, etc. That’s where we came up with the logo.”
Fryman said the village website was undergoing a complete transformation that was not influenced by the FFRF’s complaints.
“None of the changes made came from pressure from this group. For them to claim it did is just false,” his statement said. “That being said, this community will never deny or turn from the heritage that has made it so strong. For the FFRF to try to divide us on false talking points in this manner evidences their need to prove their existence to their donors.”
Fryman said Wednesday the website was under construction before he took office. “I wasn’t part of reconstructing the website,” he said.
The new logo replaced the village seal on correspondence and promotional materials as a result of the village’s 150th anniversary celebration. “We thought it would be kind of nice to put a fresh face on the village and website,” Fryman said.
He said the village seal remains, and no images have been removed from it, contrary to the FFRF’s claims. He said the words “Christian community” were removed from the website only because it was completely revamped, and that he saw only one letter from the FFRF.
The organization’s claims are completely false, Fryman said, adding, “They work through fear mongering, plain and simple.”
Ziegler responded: “Whether it was prompted by our letter or not, we’re happy that the village has made the right decision and implemented a secular seal.”
She continues to believe some of the changes were prompted by the FFRF letter, but whether or not that’s the case “we’re pleased with the outcome either way.”
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.