On economic development, Findlay continues to expand its horizons. Need proof? This week’s announcement that the community is, once again, at the very top of the best “micropolitan” communities list in the nation.
But when it comes to certain social matters like religion or sexual orientation, Findlay may have its blinders on a bit too tight.
We were reminded of that in some of the responses to a recent idea that Findlay could be more welcoming to the LGBTQ members of our community and to visitors to our city by putting stickers in windows of restaurants and other businesses. The backlash probably didn’t surprise many in a community where conservative thinking and values dominate and many struggle with the idea of “alternative” lifestyles.
Yet, the reactions and discussions were a good step toward awareness of our differences, politically and otherwise.
Another wake-up call came more recently when a Wisconsin-based nonprofit association of atheists and agnostics, which works to keep religion and government separate, called Findlay out for having a religious mural in its main city government building. Apparently the offensive part of the mural, an original, locally-created piece with an eagle on a blue backdrop of sky and water, was a reference to Psalm 91.
The mural has been outside the mayor’s office for at least a decade, and no one had apparently complained about it — until now.
In response to a request for the mural’s removal by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the administration is digging in. Mayor Lydia Mihalik said the mural will remain until the city is legally directed to remove it.
That’s a position likely supported by many, but we doubt the fight is over. We wonder if engaging in an expensive, drawn-out court fight with an outcome decided by attorneys and judges, likely from some other place, is in Findlay’s best interest.
A better solution would be to keep the mural but open the door to non-Christian religions. Why not turn the third floor into a place where murals, paintings, statues or other local art can be displayed to promote diversity?
Certainly, such a religious-themed hallway would increase traffic on the third floor and, hopefully, expand the community’s awareness and understanding of other religions. Many Christians are strong in their faith, so what harm could come from offering art of the world’s major religions, like Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism?
Findlay may always be a Christian-dominated place. But shouldn’t the city be open to people of all faiths and beliefs in the same sort of way we welcome foreign business?
The line that separates government and religion in the United States is fuzzy. People and groups will always interpret the First Amendment in a way that fits their beliefs.
But Findlay can show its true colors by allowing other religious groups to display their own symbols of faith.
If city administrators accept some religious donations and not others, then the argument for removing the mural from the municipal building must gain ground. It can’t be for just one, if not all.