Hanging of Jewish Symbol in Florida Capitol Sparks Controversy

A civil rights group is criticizing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for hanging a Jewish symbol outside his capitol office, saying it could turn the state building into a shrine for other religious icons according to a report in the Palm Beach Post on Friday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said the hanging of a mezuzah, which contains Hebrew blessings, is the equivalent to the government's endorsement of a religious symbol, the Post reports.

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"The problem is that if he says yes to this religious symbol, he's not going to be able to say no to any other religious symbol," said Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida ACLU, told the Post. "While it may look like a lovely gesture, it's very short-sighted."

Crist, a Methodist, received the mezuzah as a gift from Jewish state Rep. Adam Hasner. The governor told the Post he understands the separation of church and state but doesn't think he did anything wrong.

"But you have a freedom of religion, not a freedom from religion. All I'm doing is attempting to be respectful and grateful," said Crist, who said he has no intention of removing the mezuzah from his office.

But Simons says Crist's good-will gesture has legal implications.

"The problem is we have a governor who wants to try to please everybody... He just spontaneously accepted this gift and decided to hang the mezuzah on the doorjamb before he realized that there are constitutional issues that govern when government can decide which religious symbols it is going to embrace," Simons told the Post.