Roselle Park, New Jersey, put up a display that features the figure of a soldier kneeling in front of a Christian cross in remembrance of veterans on July 29.
The display sits outside the town's public library and has the support of Roselle Park Mayor Carl Hokanson, but it's not clear if the library trustees support it, according to the Friendly Atheist blog.
The American Humanist Association issued a press release on Aug. 11 announcing that its legal arm, Appignani Humanist Legal Center, had sent a letter to Hokanson warning him the cross display violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because the religious display sits on city government property.
The letter called for the city to take the Christian-themed display down, and not place anymore religion-specific memorials on government property.
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"The city should honor the sacrifices of all of its veterans," Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said in the news release. "By including a cross in its veterans’ memorial, the mayor is sending the message that our brave, non-Christian service members are somehow less worthy of honor and respect."
Monica Miller, senior counsel for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, added: "The courts have been virtually unanimous in finding that Christian crosses on government property unconstitutionally affiliate the government with religion. In displaying a religious symbol on a city war memorial, the government is endorsing religion -- Christianity in particular."
Hokanson told the Roselle Park News that he had not read the removal demand letter, but indicated that Library Board of Trustees President Patricia Butler received the letter and forwarded it to Richard Huxford, the town's attorney.
David Niose, legal director for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, told the news site:
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We have no problem with honoring soldiers and veterans. That’s perfectly fine but it has to be done in a religiously neutral manner. If you go to Arlington National Cemetery, the gravestones are rectangular and then each individual soldier’s religious symbol will be on that square but the idea of a cross being the universal symbol for fallen soldiers is a fallacy.