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Wisconsin Group Protests Crosses On Municipal Building In Stratton, Ohio

A group in favor of furthering the separation of church and state has continued its protest over a pair of crosses displayed on the municipal building in Stratton, Ohio. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, of Madison, Wis., threatened to sue the small town in January if the crosses were not removed. 

Stratton’s Mayor John Abdalla initially refused to remove the religious symbols but finally did after seeking legal advice. 

"I don't like it - not one bit," Abdalla told the Steubenville Herald-Star at the time. "Worse, I can't find out who is (behind this). This is very upsetting. Those crosses have been there for years. The (Freedom From Religion Foundation) even sent pictures of the crosses.”

In April, though, he placed them back on the building in preparation for the Easter season.

He told the Steubenville paper in early April that the city was allowed to display the crosses during the Christian holiday.

"I'm allowed to put the crosses back up during (holidays)," Abdalla said. "They will stay up at least through the end of this month.”

He added that the Freedom From Religion Foundation had not contacted the city since January. 

That changed April 8 when he received a letter from the foundation according to the Associated Press.

"While the permanent display of these crosses by the Village is indisputably unconstitutional, the seasonal display of the crosses in recognition of Easter, the Christian celebration of Jesus's resurrection, is no less illegal,” Rebecca Markert, staff attorney for the foundation, wrote in the letter. "The display of these crosses is illegal because it represents government endorsement of the Christian religion.”

On April 9 the Herald-Star published an editorial stating the paper’s staff stood with Abdalla even though they knew he was fighting a “losing battle.”

“It's a losing battle because the United States has become a multicultural nation bent on pleasing everyone,” the editorial read.

Abdalla has refused to comment further on the crosses. He would neither confirm nor deny whether the crosses were still on the building when contacted by the Associated Press Wednesday. 

He said he didn’t want to discuss the matter and couldn’t suggest anyone who did.

"No one's going to talk about this," Abdalla said.

The foundation said the city has not responded to the letter requesting that the crosses be removed.

Easter is April 20. City officials may simply be waiting for the holiday to pass and hoping that, with it, the scandal will too.

Sources: Herald-Star (January Story), Herald-Star (April Story), Cleveland Plain Dealer (AP Story), Herald-Star (Editorial)


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