Leon, Iowa - The Des Moines Register in the November 20, 2008 news gives a thistle to the town of Leon for responding to a court decision finding (Original Sin) a city ordinance that banned traffic on a street for all but those attending church service, unconstitutional, and (The Reformation) responding with an ordinance that banned all parking on the street. (Those wanting to park during church services are now detoured to Purgatory.)
Banning everyone from parking is an approach citizens would not expect their elected officials to take, since like the Register points out, it inconveniences everyone. The people of Leon have the right to elect whomever they choose and those elected officials can pass ordinances that are legal and constitutional, no matter how mean spirited. That is their right. But it isn’t the sort of measured response to be expected by democratic governments in America. We aren’t the Wild West; we are supposed to be civilized and educated people with elected officials who craft laws that find a happy medium and solve problems. This response simply worsened the existing problem.
In 1975 I came to Iowa from Rhode Island. It was a new experience for a kid that had never been outside of New England. Everyone said I would soon be returning home because no one was sure that homes in Iowa even had plumbing. The encyclopedia displayed a picture of a young man holding a pig at the Iowa State Fair. His butch waxed crew cut was even across the top; a big smile on his face as he leaned into the camera. I took a long train ride from Providence to Chicago. On the bus ride to Iowa City from Chicago I asked the farmer sitting next to me what all that was in the fields. He smiled and said, “Corn and beans.” I was awed at the miles and miles of corn and couldn’t imagine who would eat so much corn. A few years later my father-in-law, Francis Snook, a hog, corn and soybean farmer in Jasper County got the biggest laugh of his lifetime as this brainy Drake Law student standing in the hog house in the dead of February asked how come the ground didn’t freeze. His answer was “Because we’ve mixed corn and water.” I stood there looking down at my “muddy” rubber boots while he continued to clear out the pens just chuckling to himself and from the corner of his eye waiting for me to “get it”. When the smile finally creased my face his laughter sent the hogs scrambling in every direction. We both laughed so hard the smell of ammonia forced us outside to the frigid Iowa winter air. I always loved the beauty of the Iowa land and its people. I stayed in Iowa because it was a friendly place where people were honest and you could still earn a decent living while raising decently honest children.
This response by the Leon Town Councils isn’t an honest one. It’s cute but it’s not intellectually honest.
As a lawyer in Iowa for over 30 years I have a recommendation that should clear up the problem, will not offend the First Amendment and respect the separation of church and state. Simply amend the ordinance to allow only those who have not sinned to park on the street during church service times. The street should be plenty empty.
After all wasn’t it Jesus who said: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” The elected officials of Leon shall sin no more.