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Belen, New Mexico (U.S.)

Valencia County

Last modified: 2019-08-13 by rick wyatt
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[Flag of Belen, New Mexico] image by Masao Okazaki, 25 June 2019



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Description of the Flag

From https://wp-media.patheos.com/subdomain/sites/8/2018/05/BelenFlagCross.png and article at https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2018/05/13/belen-nm-adopts-new-flag-with-religious-symbol-raising-legal-concerns/):

[Note text below is not from the city website, but presents an opinion on the flag.]

The city of Belen in New Mexico just adopted a new flag with a very blatant “Star of Bethlehem” on it. One city councilman didn’t even hide the fact that this was a promotion of religion. The city councilor who helped design the flag says the star of Bethlehem is featured in the middle of the Zia symbol. It was approved as the city’s official flag this week.

“I love that because it just establishes our faith and a representation of hope,” said George Balderrama after seeing a sketch of the city’s new flag. “This is again a representation, I think, by this city to just make a statement that they choose to let God be the God of their city.”

When you’re breaking the law, you really shouldn’t brag about your motivation… The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which had a skirmish with this city in 2015 over a Nativity scene on public property, is already raising concern over this flag’s design:
“Federal courts have ruled that religious symbols on official city logos or representations violate the Establishment Clause,” FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line writes to the city’s legal counsel. “The city of Belen flag design is akin to numerous other unconstitutional municipal representations.”

And any claims of historical or cultural significance to the “Star of Bethlehem” on the city flag because of the connection to “Bethlehem” (Belen is a Spanish translation of Bethlehem) do not relieve the city of its constitutional obligations, FFRF underscores. …

“The city of Belen is not only thumbing its nose at the Constitution,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, “it is also expressing disdain at the way this country’s demographics are rapidly changing for the better.”

The Nativity scene is still in place today and odds are the flag isn’t going to change either. It would take someone who lives in the city willing to fight a legal battle with FFRF’s help before a lawsuit could be filed successfully. But the pieces seem like they’re all in place. FFRF has warned the city about the constitutional problems multiple times, only to see their concerns ignored. That means the city is only a plaintiff away from losing a hell of a lot of money.
located by Paul Bassinson, 9 May 2019Article about the flag's designer, Jim Rende, with a good image of the flag can be found at http://www.news-bulletin.com/news/features/jim-rende-planting-the-seeds-for-success/article_09013e0c-9bb4-11e6-8a15-5fb21ec5006c.html.
Masao Okazaki, 25 June 2019


Previous Flag

[Flag of Belen, New Mexico] image by Jens Pattke, 12 May 2001

The flag was designed by Ronnie Torres, the Mayor of Belen with the help of Bruce Prater of Graphics Art Station, a local business in Belen. Mr. Torres wanted the flag to signify Belen as the City different. The train is to represent the long time relationship of Belen with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad "BNSF" and the Harvey Museum associated with the railroad. The Star is representative of the star of Bethlehem, the meaning of Belen, being Bethlehem."
 
Information provided by Anita Romero, Administrative Assistant, City of Belen, New Mexico.
Valentin Poposki, 9 April 2009