The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter of complaint Aug. 20 to contest the proposed placement of an 8-foot-high statue that includes a Christian cross in Whitewater Memorial State Park in Liberty, Ind.
Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent the letter to Cameron Clark, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in Indianapolis, on behalf of a local complainant who objects to putting religious objects on state-owned property.
According to a story in the Richmond Palladium-Item, the park was created in 1949 to be a memorial to veterans surrounding counties. The carved wooden statue shows a soldier kneeling on one knee by the cross, with an eagle looming above.
Park Manager Scott Crossley told the newspaper said the statue's future will be decided at the state level. "They said they would rush it because it is a started project," he said.
FFRF is a nationwide state-church watchdog with more than 21,000 members, including members in Indiana and more than 4,000 active-duty service members and veterans.
"The religious significance of the Latin cross is unambiguous and indisputable," Markert wrote, adding that "an overwhelming majority of federal courts agree that the Latin cross universally represents the Christian religion, and only the Christian religion."
She cited a string of court decisions that bolster FFRF's position, including a ruling that the cross "is not a generic symbol of death."
"The inherent religious significance of the Latin cross is undeniable and is not disguisable," Markert said. "No secular purpose, no matter how sincere, will detract from the overall message that the Latin cross stands for Christianity and the overall display promotes Christianity. The display of this patently religious symbol in a city park would confer government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause."
FFRF says the statue excludes the 25% of military personnel who identify as atheist or agnostic or hold no religious preference.
"We ask you to replace the statue’s cross with a secular symbol, remove the cross, or deny the statue’s placement in Whitewater Memorial Park in order to honor all veterans. We would also appreciate a prompt response from you, in writing, informing us of the action the DNR takes on this matter," Markert said.