Update: An inquiry from Public Citizen explains Mr. Farris’ quick retraction of his threat.
Supervisor Ken Reid’s widely reported remarks in which he called members of a local atheist group and others “terrorists” has reignited contention over the use of the courthouse grounds just in time for the joyous season. Happy holidays!
As it happens, the “preeminent constitutional lawyer” advising the committee tasked with designing the county-sponsored religious display now on the grounds is none other than founder and chancellor of Patrick Henry College, Mike Farris. The chairman of that committee boasted of having had the pleasure of sharing lunch with Mr. Farris, and assured everyone involved that what they had planned was legally defensible.
Over the weekend, Mike Farris issued a threat to QueerPHC, the LGBT student/alumni group at Patrick Henry College we introduced readers to here. In a comment posted to QueerPHC’s Facebook page, Farris claims that the group is in violation of PHC’s “copyright,” and demands that they take down the page “at once.”
On Monday we will began [sic] the legal steps to seek removal from Facebook and from the courts if necessary. In this [sic] process of this matter we can seek discovery from Facebook to learn your identity and seek damages from you as permitted by law. The best thing for all concerned is for you to simply remove this page.
QueerPHC promptly posted this temper tantrum on their excellent blog.
Yesterday, “after further consultation,” perhaps with a preeminent copyright lawyer, Farris quickly withdrew his threat.
New York Magazine also has the story.
We can only surmise that stress caused by the recent spike in traffic reported by QueerPHC, in combination with the failure of Patrick Henry College enforcers to identify those behind the group so that they can be eliminated from campus, has caused Mr. Farris to take leave of his senses. Either that, or he is a really substandard lawyer. Either way, the Courthouse Grounds and Facilities Committee would be well advised to seek a second opinion with regard to the wisdom of displaying religious symbols under the imprimatur of county government.