Religion

Group Wants Christian Cross Removed From City Hall

| by Michael Allen
Veterans CrossVeterans Cross

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) wants a white wooden Christian cross removed from the commission chambers of the City Hall building in Longwood, Florida.

The cross, which bears the words "We Will Never Forget Their Sacrifices," was part of a Vietnam War Traveling Memorial Wall that sat in a local park for part of 2016; the cross was later moved to City Hall, notes the Orlando Sentinel.

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Rebecca Markert, a lawyer with the FFRF, wrote a letter to Longwood Mayor Joe Durso and the city commission on March 10 demanding that the cross be removed because it signifies the city government is endorsing Christianity:

A majority of federal courts have held displays of Latin crosses on public property to be an unconstitutional display of religion. The inherent religious display of the Christian cross is undeniable and is not disguisable.

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The display of this patently religious symbol on public property confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause.

However, Durso told the Orlando Sentinel that the city is not going to take down the cross.

"It was donated to us as a nice honor in paying homage to those men and women who served," Durso insisted. "How is having a cross an endorsement? ... They are trying to create a fire where there is no fire."

Johnnie Richardson, a retired Army colonel, created the cross and donated it to the city so that it could be part of a future museum.

Richardson insisted that his cross did not endorse any specific religion:

Where they put it, I couldn’t have cared less, to be honest with you. But it had nothing to do with endorsing one particular religion... Personally I’m offended -- heavily offended -- by those individuals that take it upon themselves to make waves about religious freedom. Why they want to make an issue out of it is beyond me.

Markert countered: "If they ignore us, we will talk to our complainant and see if they are comfortable moving forward with a lawsuit."

David Williamson of the Central Florida Freethought Community identified the group as the complainant.

Williamson, a Navy veteran, said: "We don’t want the city to assume the role of picking a religion. And this is a promotion of Christianity by the city."

Longwood City Commissioner Ben Paris fired back: "I’m Jewish, and I don’t find the cross offensive. We’re not asking people to pay respect to it. … I think this is nitpicking."

Sources: Orlando Sentinel, Freedom From Religion Foundation / Photo credit: Freedom From Religion Foundation

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