In Pensacola, Florida, a militant atheist group won a lawsuit deeming a cross in a public park “unconstitutional” and that it must be removed.
The American Humanist Association and Freedom From Religion Foundation, organizations comprised of atheists, freethinkers and the non-religious, filed a lawsuit on behalf of four citizens against Pensacola for using public funds to maintain a cross in a public area. The groups claimed that this supposedly violated the “separation of church and state” in the First Amendment. (via Todd Starnes)
The cross is a white, 34-foot, concrete Roman cross, located in a public park in Pensacola. It was donated by the Pensacola Jaycees in 1969 to replace a crumbling wooden cross that had been in the park since 1941. The cross has been a prominent feature of the park and cost the city a mere $233 per year in upkeep.
Monica Miller, senior counsel for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center claimed the cross was “unavoidable to park patrons” and alleged that she and the others felt “personally offended” and “excluded” by the cross.
Annie Gaylor, cofounder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation claimed, “When a city park serving all citizens – nonreligious, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian – contains a towering Latin cross, this sends a message of exclusion to non-Christians, and a corresponding message to Christians that they are favored citizens.”
The judge in the controversial ruling, Roger Vinson, was reluctant to rule in favor of the litigants. “I am aware that there is a lot of support in Pensacola to keep the cross as is, and I understand and respect that point of view… But, the law is the law,” he said.
After the ruling, Judge Roger Vinson expressed his distaste for the whole affair, pointing out that many thousands of people have visited the park without being offended for 75 years before now. He even claimed that the Founding Fathers “would have most likely found this lawsuit absurd.”
One woman, a local named Lucia Greenfield, has fond memories of the park and the cross since she was a little girl, “I think it’s a disgrace, I think it’s awful, I’ve been here all my life, born and raised, used to do Easter Egg hunts here, and I think it’s terrible.”
The ruling was based on a similar ruling passed in Rabun County Georgia in 1981 when a federal district judge ordered the removal of an illuminated cross from the local state park. In that ruling, the cross was similarly determined to violate the “separation of church and state”.
The city of Pensacola now has 30 days to remove the cross and is required to pay one dollar in damages to the four offended citizens, two of which no longer live in Pensacola.
It is unclear at this time what the fate of the cross will be once it’s removed, as well as the fate of other religious icons in public areas around the country during the rising attacks on the Christian way of life, and the values this country was built on.