A Christian flag, flying outside Glencoe, Alabama’s police station and city hall, was taken down by the city amidst a letter of complaint sent by an atheist group.
Mayor Charles Gilchrist told local station WBRC that the flag was taken down by city council consensus in late June after a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization that tackles issues relating to the separation of church and state.
The primary forces driving the city’s decision were the possible hefty costs of litigation and legal fees.
A city lawyer told Gilchrist that a town facing similar legal action had to pay $500,000 in damages and $50,000 in legal costs.
“That would just about ruin us. That’s what they do. They pick on these smaller towns that can’t defend ourselves,” Gilchrist said to WBRC.
The letter, written by FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel, says the government’s flying of the Christian flag on its grounds is unconstitutional.
“The cross on the flag pole of Glencoe’s City Hall building unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity,” Seidel wrote. “It conveys the message to the twenty-six percent of the U.S. population who are not Christians that they are not “favored members of the political community.”
FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor raved over the announcement.
“Reason will prevail,” she said in a statement. “In this case, it was so patently obvious why a civil, secular government can’t endorse Christianity in this particular way.”
Gilchrist said he is still searching for the best legal routes in response to the letter, and has spoken with the American Center for Law & Justice, a group focused on Christian rights.
The Christian flag flew alongside the US and Alabama State flags outside the police department since the 1990s, according to WBRC.