A Pennsylvania county board of commissioners recently responded to a First Amendment rights group that called for the removal of a cross in the county’s official seal.
Last month, Lehigh commissioners voted 9-0 for the county solicitor to write a response to letter the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national humanist organization that advocates for the separation of church and state, wrote last November.
"It is the position of Lehigh County that the presence of the cross on the seal among all the other items of historical significance has the secular purpose of recognizing the history of the county," the commissioners said in their letter. "As such it does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Accordingly, the county is not planning on removing the cross from the seal."
The Madison-based group sent a complaint to Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller asking officials to remove a Latin cross from the county’s seal.
Attorneys from the group said the seal violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
“(The Establishment Clause) at the very least prohibits government from appearing to take a position on questions of religious belief," said Freedom From Religion attorney Patrick C. Elliott.
Muller added that changing the seal would cause a small expense for taxpayers.
"It's not something in the millions of dollars," Muller said, "but I don't know what it would be."
Religious-based groups have vocalized their support for the seal and said they stand with the commissioners who responded to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The Pennsylvania Pastors Network, who praised the commissioners for their ‘courageous stand in defense of the truth and religious liberty,’ said they think the Foundation misunderstands why county included the cross in its seal.
"(The complaint shows) not only a hostility toward Christianity, but also gross ignorance of our nation's founding documents," the group said in a statement.