A Miami-Dade County commissioner praised “the birth of our King, Jesus” in a Christmas message mailed to constituents on county letterhead, offending some constituents and a civil-rights group for injecting a religious endorsement into official county correspondence.
Commissioner Javier Souto’s office mailed the message to residents in District 10, which he has represented since 1993.
“We are approaching the happiest and most significant days in our calendar: Christmas and the Holidays,” he wrote. “The Brotherhood of Men is never felt stronger than during these last days of the year when we commemorate the birth of our King, Jesus, the Son of God. It is now when we see with enormous clarity what is truly important and what is not.”
Souto, a Republican holding a non-partisan seat on the 13-member commission, did not respond to an interview request, and the County Commission’s press office also did not respond to a request for comment on Souto’s behalf.
The letter was criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union for violating the separation required between church and state, even in messages tied to the celebration of a Christian holiday. The group called Souto’s letter to constituents “inappropriate” for official communication from a county official.
“Christmas is one of the two sacred holidays on the Christian calendar — we all understand that,” wrote Howard Simon, director of the ACLU’s Florida division. “But it is inappropriate for a public official to use the trappings of his office to promote religious views to the exclusion of others.”
Barbara Sangetti, a real estate agent who lives in the Kendall portion of Souto’s suburban district, said she received the “Dear Friends” letter in the mail this week. One side had the message in English and the other in Spanish. A photo of Souto, who faces reelection next year, sits near the top.
“You don’t think about recognizing the rest of the season that people are celebrating? It’s wrong on so many levels,” Sangetti said. “This is an elected official … And I’m Catholic.”
Published on Friday, December 15, 2017 @ 3:48 PM CDT