The town of Republic, Missouri, is fighting a lawsuit filed in federal court July 1 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for having an ichthus, the early Christian fish symbol, in its town logo.
"The symbol is very clearly a Christian symbol," says Dick Kurtenbach, regional ACLU executive director. "They were declaring Republic a Christian community."
A poll indicates 87 percent of residents want to retain the emblem, which appears on the town's flag, trucks, street signs, and stationery.
The ten-member Support Republic Committee, created by the town's board of aldermen and composed of volunteers from the local Assemblies of God, Baptist, Catholic, Christian, Evangelical Free, and Methodist churches, has raised about $12,500 for legal fees through private donations and the sale of T-shirts bearing the logo. Support has come from as far away as New Zealand, says Keith Miller, committee cochair.
Marilyn Shexsnayder, who submitted the winning logo design as part of a local contest eight years ago, says she added the fish to represent the role of faith in the community, which has 8,000 residents and two dozen churches. "I thought the fish was a universal symbol of religion," she told CT. "I think it would be really simple just to change that fish into a halo."
But the fight for the fish has rallied the town's denominationally diverse Christians. "We don't appreciate an organization coming in and telling us what we can and cannot do," says Miller.
Local Christians view the controversy as an evangelistic opportunity. "There is an openness in the city to dialogue about faith in Christ," says Denny Marr, minister of education at Calvary Baptist Church in Republic. "It's been a very positive situation."1