A small white cross in Searcy, Ark., has sparked a big battle between a local police chief and an atheist group who demands that the religious symbol be removed.
The cross was placed in the ground outside the Searcy Police Department before Clark began to serve as chief a year ago. Now, he is being pressured to remove the cross from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist group. But the police chief isn’t budging.
“Someone put it there, I didn’t put it there, I don’t know who did. I wasn’t going to remove it just because this organization in another state told us that we should,” Clark told KARK-TV. “We’re here serving the citizens of Searcy and I don’t feel like we’ve done anything to offend them.”
Former Chief Kyle Osborne told The Daily Citizen that members of the St. Paul United Methodist Church placed the cross on the property in 2011.
“The St. Paul guys passed those out all over town and you still see them all the time,” he said. “One day an officer asked me about putting it out there and I said it was ok. If it was up to me, I’d absolutely keep that cross up.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation said it filed a complaint against the Department on behalf of a citizen in Searcy who felt intimidated to speak out.
“It’s such a simple remedy. All they have to do is remove the cross, and if the police chief is partial to it, he can put it on his own lawn,” Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor told KARK-TV.
But Clark argues the cross is outside his private entrance and he is the only one who sees it daily.
The Department spoke with residents near the area on Monday, Clark said and they all support his decision to leave the cross in place.
Sources: KARK-TV, The Daily Citizen