Rob Sherman Advocacy
October 20, 2006
Rob Sherman Advocacy Files Suit Against
Burbank, Illinois, for Christian Vehicle Sticker
Rob Sherman Advocacy filed a lawsuit this week
against the southwest Chicago suburb of
Burbank, Illinois, for
putting a Christian cross, amongst other imagery, on its municipal vehicle tax
sticker ("vehicle sticker") and then forcing unwilling residents to display the
central symbol of Christianity from the windshields of their cars. The
lawsuit was filed in behalf of the Plaintiff in the lawsuit, college student
Nichole Schultz, who is a resident of Burbank.
The City of Burbank, IL, is located two miles south
of Midway Airport, between Cicero Avenue (4800 West) and Harlem Avenue (7200
West) and between 75th Street and 87th Street. (The northern border varies
from 71st Street to 77th Street.)
Rob Sherman Advocacy made numerous attempts over the
past six months to persuade the City to allow residents to demonstrate in some
other way that they have paid their municipal vehicle tax. Rob Sherman
appeared at a City Council meeting in May, where he made a presentation on the
issue. Sherman exchanged several telephone calls with the Mayor and the
City Clerk. On July 10th, Sherman sent a
Letter to the City of Burbank asking that this matter be resolved without litigation.
The City declined to budge on the issue, although City officials were always
polite, courtesy and respectful in responding to Sherman. They just didn't
agree with Sherman, contending that a Christian cross, when used to mark a
cemetery grave as in the vehicle sticker depiction, is merely a generic marker
that is devoid of religious significance and therefore may legally be used on a
vehicle sticker. Now, it will be up to the a federal court to decide who's
Twenty years ago, Sherman helped Clint Harris of
Zion, IL, and Ted Kuhn of Rolling Meadows, IL, resolve similar cases, in which
there was a Christian cross on the vehicle stickers in those municipalities.
There, as in Burbank, today, the cities claimed a secular purpose for Christian
government officials to put a Christian cross on the vehicle stickers. The
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (federal appeals court) ruled that a cross is
the central symbol of the Christian religion, so regardless of any claimed
secular purpose, the inclusion of a Christian cross on a vehicle sticker has a
sectarian religious effect on the "ordinary observer" and is therefore
Tribune published a story about all this on October 20, 2006.
Read the story on the Chicago Tribune web site or, for your
convenience, below is an unedited, library/archive copy of the Tribune's story:
Woman sues over 'forced Christianization' of car
By Jo Napolitano
Tribune staff reporter
Published October 19, 2006, 8:14 PM CDT
A Burbank woman is suing her
hometown in federal court for requiring her to
display what she believes is a Christian-themed
vehicle sticker on her windshield.
Nichole Schultz tried to get an exemption from
displaying the sticker because of religious
concerns, but the city denied her request, her
attorney said, so now the matter is headed to court.
The sticker depicts a soldier with a rifle, kneeling
before a gravesite emblazoned with a cross. City
officials contend the cross is a generic symbol and
was not selected for any religious meaning.
Schultz said the city is violating the Illinois
Constitution along with her 1st Amendment rights by
making her endorse a particular faith.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Chicago, said that
as a result of the "forced Christianization" of her
car, she avoids driving it whenever possible. She's
not asking for the city to rescind its sticker for
everyone, but to make an exception for her.
Schultz is suing Burbank, the City Council, Mayor
Harry Klein and City Clerk Pat Roach.
Roach said Thursday that the cross is a grave
marker, not a crucifix. She said the city often
tries to incorporate a patriotic theme in its
stickers and that they usually include an American
Last year, the sticker showed an excavator and said
something about "a community at work." No one liked
it, Roach said. This year's sticker received a
warmer welcome with only two complaints.
Schultz claims Roach told her to "deal with it" when
she called to complain about the sticker. The clerk
denies ever using those words.
"I probably said something like, 'I'm surprised that
you don't like it because everybody else does,'"
Roach said. "It's been very popular."
Roach said Schultz has the option to cover up a
portion of the sticker or to cut out the cross, but
Schultz's advocates said they were never offered
such a compromise.
Rob Sherman, an atheist activist, wrote the city a
letter in July on Schultz's behalf, asking officials
to come up with a discreet solution that would keep
the matter out of court.
"Let's resolve this matter together and get it over
with without litigation and without the negative
effects that a battle over a religious issue would
cause," he said.
The city never answered, Sherman said.
The law is on Schultz's side, he said, pointing to
two cases involving religious-themed vehicle
stickers—one in Zion and the other in Rolling
Meadows—that were decided in 1991.
Sherman said, too, that there is no way to divorce
the cross symbol from its religious roots, saying
government officials often try to "accidentally"
force people to advertise their religion.
Schultz could not be reached for comment. Her
lawyer, Dmitry Feofanov, said he didn't know her
religious affiliation and that it doesn't matter.
Feofanov has a one-man firm called Chicago Lemon
Law, and most of his cases involve car fraud.
"The law is the law," he said. "This country was
founded in part because of the idea of religious
liberty. This issue was on the table in American
public life from the founding of the Republic."
Feofanov said that because the city ignored legal
precedent, the only option was to go to court.
Vincent Cainkar, an attorney representing the city,
said he would not comment on the case.