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ACLU Sues Over Cross On Christmas Tree

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter in Indiana is suing a local town for prominently featuring a cross on their town square Christmas tree.

Joseph Tomkins, 38, a local resident of Knightstown, Indiana, went to the ACLU and requested that they sue the city on his behalf, according to The Indianapolis Star. He claims that the lit cross in the middle of the town square violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which separates church and state. 

"The cross is the best known symbol of Christianity and Knightstown's prominent display of this symbol represents an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," the lawsuit reads, per Fox News.

The suit asks for the immediate removal of the cross, a declaration that the cross violates the Constitution, and monetary damages to Joseph, who claims that the cross's image has caused him "irreparable harm." 

Joseph says that he is "forced to come into direct and unwelcome contact" with the cross every time he drives into town.

The Star reports that the town square in question is a public area with a prominent evergreen tree. Every year during the holidays, it is decorated with lights, ornaments and an illuminated cross. There are no other decorations in the area. 

According to court documents, Joseph "objects to any of his tax dollars going to pay for the erection or maintenance of the display or the lighting of it."

His stepmother, Judy Tomkins, told the New York Daily News that her stepson's actions go against his family's values and that he grew up in a Christian home.

"We are God loving people," she said. "What he has done, we are opposed to it."

Town residents were just as shocked at Joseph's actions. Resident Kevin Richey says that he is entitled to his opinions, but given that the town only has a population of 2,000, he should have brought up his grievances at a town hall to try and find a solution.

"You gotta sit down and talk about it before you file the lawsuits," Richey told Fox 59.

Resident and relative Mark Tomkins was outraged, saying that he cannot believe that the cross's image could cause harm.

"There’s a church on every corner here. Is he offended by all the crosses?" Mark asked. "He can take it down and I tell you what, I’ll park this car here until Christmas Day with three crosses on it."

The Star reports that Knightsville town officials and ACLU representatives have declined to comment on the story.

Sources: The Indianapolis Star, Fox News (2), The New York Daily News / Photo Credit: WXIN via The New York Daily News

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