STAGECOACH -- Stagecoach water district members will continue to see "God Bless America" on their billing statements.
Despite complaints by Stagecoach property owner John Messina that the placing of the phrase on the bills violates the country's legal premise of separation of church and state, the Stagecoach General Improvement District on Thursday agreed to continue printing the phrase on future statements.
Following the meeting, District General Manager Lynn Arndell said the board and audience unanimously agreed it was time to stand up and quit being pushed around by one individual.
"I never dreamed such a simple statement as "God Bless America," issued over and over again, all over the country by people from all walks of life, and then as an echo printed on the Stagecoach General Improvement District water bills, would create such a reaction," she said. "If our President, who holds the highest public office in our free nation can ask God to bless America, than so to can the Stagecoach GID."
According to Arndell, Pacific Justice Institute will pay for full legal representation without any cost to the district. However, if the district loses any future legal challenges, damages awarded to the other party would probably be the responsibility of the district.
Those in attendance indicated they would be willing to find the means to raise any additional funding that might be needed.
District board member Charles Lawson spoke emotionally in support of the board's action.
"We have good young men and women getting killed overseas and we have this one individual (John Messina) going out of his way to inflict his beliefs on our community. We had 100 percent support of those in attendance," he said. "The basic tone of the meeting was we have got to stop being at the mercy of one individual. This is a democratic republic and the majority rules. We will go to the Supreme Court if necessary."
Upon receiving a letter from Messina, a resident of San Jose, Calif., stating bills from government agencies should not convey religious messages, the district removed the phrase from its billings. However, after being inundated by phone calls, letters and e-mails encouraging the district to put it back on the bills, the board decided to reconsider its action.