Whiteville: Endgame

I have previously written about the water tower cross in Whiteville, Tennessee three times: here, here, and here. The story is pretty much over now. On August 8, 2012, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the town of Whiteville settled the lawsuit.

The actual terms of the settlement are here. The FFRF’s press release regarding the settlement can be read here. And the mayor of Whiteville, in what has emerged as his own characteristic style, today spontaneously e-mailed me his own press release, which can be viewed here. The terms of the settlement are… 

The device on the water tower may remain — in its current form, and the other arm that would return its shape to that of a Latin cross may not go back up. Crosses on the grounds of the city hall must be part of a larger religious display. The mayor himself will not display crosses on the public property in front of his private business (I presume he may display whatever he likes on the inside). And the town will pay about two-thirds of FFRF’s attorney’s fees and court costs.

Mayor Bellar’s press release seems very bitter in its proclamation of victory, and if I’d been his lawyer, I’d have explained the benefits of complying with Rule 1. But the Mayor seems to have an emotional need to portray himself as the little guy who stood up to a big, bad, evil bully and won. So I suspect that a lawyer who dispensed the advice I describe would have been ignored at best, and fired at worst. The FFRF’s statement is more bland and professional in tone, which is closer to what I would have advised.

Who won? Did he win? “Winning,” to me, is when you get out of the lawsuit what you had sought when you first walked into court. The links above set forth the stipulated order of the court, and each party speaking for themselves in their own voices about the resolution. The Reader may decide for herself which side of the dispute got what they wanted out of the case.

My own opinion on the merits of the dispute should be abundantly clear from my prior reports, also linked above. I am pleased that the lawsuit is settled and pleased that the town will be more mindful of the Constitution in the future. I hope that the citizens of Whiteville are able to put any bitterness lingering after this divisive issue behind them and come together as a friendly and unified community — a wish and advice I render to both the faithful and the skeptical with equal sobriety.

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16 thoughts on “Whiteville: Endgame

  1. > Who won? Did he win? “Winning,” to me, is when
    > you get out of the lawsuit what you had sought
    > when you first walked into court.

    And..

    > But the Mayor seems to have an emotional need
    > to portray himself as the little guy who stood up
    > to a big, bad, evil bully and won.

    Take out the “and won” on that second statement, and I expect that was victory conditions for the Mayor as fits the first quotation.

    So he won, all right. He won by fighting. Winning was never the point.

    Being the victim was the point. Losing the court case or winning the court case… the guy got what he wanted. #WINNING

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  2. So the thing the mayor put up on the water tower is still there?

    That means he won.

    “But it’s not a cross!” So? It’s not a cross, but it’s a reference to an event which involved putting up a cross. Anyone who knows the context will know what it means.

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  3. I briefly scanned all this.

    Let me sum up: a bunch of intolerant folks are not tolerant of a bunch of other intolerant folks. This is worth spending money on a lawsuit? Pff.

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  4. Burt, I’m glad to find that you are still on top of this story. The news that they had settled out of court was overtaken by other tragic events locally. The fact that the mayor sent you an email of his press release doesn’t surprise me. He was the one who came on your blog and began harassing people and dropping docs who people who he accused of being against the cross. You rightly removed all his BS and gave me the clues need to work out that he was the one doing it.

    If you will remember, the IP address came back to a lady. That lady worked at the insurance company owned and managed by the Mayor. He also commented that the name you posted was incorrect and that he knew this because he (J. Bellar) paid the bills. The man is an off the wall fundie and runs that town like his own personal kingdom, nothing happens without his say so. It was so pleasing to see him rage post on your blog and get the ban hammer dropped on his ignorant angry ass.

    I’ll probably never meet you Burt but you’re alright in my book!

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  5. There are still innocent people being threatened and falsely accused of being the persons (an alleged Jane Doe and John Doe) with continued vandalism, threats to their family and small business, etc. going on. Mostly, it is with the blessing of two elected officials and is spread by a person who uses her law enforcement connections to bully these people as well as others in the past. The victims have been made to jump through legal hoops due to their organic produce and egg business due to this group of a few. When most of the people’s neighbors wrote letters of support, the power that is here went after some of them. It involved having to get attorneys from a national organization that helps protect small family farms and now others will probably be involved. Most of the threats are there on Topix (from March, 2012 on under “Whiteville Hick” where they even pretend to start the forum by being the person they are harassing, look up “aka Patsy K”, and “Whiteville settles lawsuit” as well as inputs on Pay to Spray regarding firefighters, look around early April, 2012) and a person named Patsy K on http://www.opensalon.com wrote articles about all of this. Threats to force these innocent people out of town are also found there. The vandalism continues to this day.

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  6. It should also be noted that the mayor read some of Patsy K’s blogs to a special group of “citizens” mentioning the family name of this blogger. This, despite many other writers online and otherwise, commenting about the same or similar concerns. Combining forces with a neighbor who had a personal vendetta with said person, the defamation began and continues to this day. However, more and more people are beginning to see through this and after the recent 100% to 500% increase in water bills due to the mayor unilaterally working with the state to raise rates with NO notice (and he knew the state was going to come down on the town for deficiencies in the system requiring rate hikes), more people are beginning to see that the town is being run more like a monarchy than a democracy. Some of us use the term “democracy-free zone” to describe the town at this time. Note that the mayor did not even inform the board of aldermen about the latest controversy with water rates and the last board meeting was quite animated with many citizens finally showing up to participate in their local government.
    What saddens me is that many of the white people in town were not there and have commented elsewhere that “this may mean that we get a black mayor” as if it were still the 1960s. Need I say more.

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  7. To Gay and According to Reason: I’m very sorry to hear what you report about the local government. My interest in the story was in the Establishment Clause violation and the reaction to it; what you’re describing here are more along the lines of Due Process issues.

    Without excusing the deplorable conduct you describe, it’s not really the focus of my interest. I wish you luck in getting fair treatment from the local government and freedom from harassment and retaliation, and I encourage you to continue exercising your legal rights.

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  8. Thank you, Burt. I think your article sums it all up quite well with regard to the mayor’s reaction to this entire experience. It should be noted that he actually did infer, rather strongly, at the last board meeting that he had personally made a sacrifice not to place any religious symbol at his home, not in front of his business. For those of us who have discussed it and reviewed video of the meeting, this incorrect explanation of what he chose to do, with regard to future displays of religious symbols, was incorrect as we discovered when some of us read the actual settlement terms. Therefore, several of us in town would agree with your assessment of how our mayor seems to portray himself.
    With that said, I do agree that I hope this will truly end the cross controversy while the powers that be, as well as some of the citizens who staunchly shared the mayor’s attitude, will begin to realize that the constitution and other laws of the land do apply to all of us in this town just as it does elsewhere.

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