A national organization that advocates for the separation of church and state has asked a Kentucky town to remove a cross from a water tower.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent an email to city of Wilmore Mayor Harold Rainwater on Sept. 29, reports the Jessamine Journal. The letter, drafted by FFRF attorney Rebecca Markert, asked that the cross, which sits atop a water tower on the campus of Asbury University, be removed.
“The Wilmore cross, displayed on the city water tower, unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity,” Markert wrote in an email.
Citing a 1989 Supreme Court case that found that displaying a nativity scene on government property violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, Markert said the cross should come down.
“It conveys the message to the nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population who are not Christians that they are not ‘favored members of the political community,’” she wrote.
Markert noted in the letter that the FFRF is aware that the water tower sits on the private, Christian college’s campus but said that fact is “irrelevant.”
“Any reasonable observer would understand the city to endorse any messages on the water tower because the water tower has ‘WILMORE’ printed on it in large letters, and because the tower is displayed on the city’s website to represent the city’s water and sewage services,” she wrote.
In a news release on the FFRF website, the foundation’s co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, also commented on the matter.
“The United States is not a Christian nation, Kentucky is not a Christian state, Wilmore is not a Christian town and its water tower serves all residents regardless of religion,” Gaylor said. “Crosses belong on church steeples, not public water towers.”
But Rainwater, who is an associate professor at Asbury, said he doesn’t plan to take down the cross.
“There’s a groundswell of support to keep [the cross] and I’m certainly going to fight to keep it with everything I’ve got,” Rainwater told the Journal. “I think it’s symbolic of our town. I 100 percent support keeping it there.
"We won’t take it down unless we’re forced to take it down.”
He added that the city does own the tower but the cross was placed there by the school before the city took ownership in 1976.
“The contract said the cross stayed on the tower as part of the deal,” Rainwater said. “Whether that’s legal and whether that can stand up to the pressure of folks who don’t want crosses and don’t want the Ten Commandments, we’ll see.”
Photo credit: Freedom From Religion Foundation