Cross Disputed In Land Of Limbaugh (April 1995)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is protesting a violation of separation of church and state in Cape Girardeau, Missouri–“the land of Limbaugh,” where reactionary talk radio host Rush Limbaugh grew up.

The Foundation first complained about a cross located on public land last November, following a request for help from a Cape Girardeau Foundation member. The cross is located on a public right of way, about 30 feet from a highway, State Route 61, adjacent to 1634 North Kingshighway, in Cape Girardeau.

The cross was erected in 1947 by the Committee of Historic Cape Girardeau, for the unsecular purpose of dedicating the first Catholic services held in the area. The plaque at the foot of the cross reads:

“In 1699, Fathers Montigny, Davion, and St. Cosme, French missionaries, erected a cross where this stream entered the Mississippi and prayed that this might be the beginning of Christianity among the Indians. The stream has ever since been known as Cape La Croix Creek.”

Barbara Stocker, a Foundation board member, drove to Cape Girardeau from St. Louis to examine this state/church violation, taking photos and doing research about the history of the cross. According to Cape Girardeau: Biography of a City by Felix Snider, the priests traveled the Mississippi to do missionary work, erecting a cross at the mouth of the creek. “At its foot they sang hymns, fired a volley of muskets, and prayed that they might be successful in converting the Indians to Christianity.” The book continues: “For many years by the order of the king of Spain no Protestant was permitted to enter the region.”

In a letter of complaint, the Foundation asked the Missouri Department of Highways and Transportation “for the immediate removal of the concrete cross,” citing as prevailing law San Diego v. Poulson, 990 F2d, 1518, 9th, Cert. denied 63 L.W. 3283 (Oct. 11, 1994).

“We know of no instance in which a cross of this nature has ever been permitted to stand on public property, and the above case, in which the Supreme Court of the United States let stand the order to remove a similar cross in San Diego, is further evidence that the law of the land requires crosses to be removed from public property.

“Need we add that the presence of this cross also denies the guarantees established in the Missouri Constitution, Art. I, Sect. 5, 6, and 7? The presence of the cross shows a state preference for Christianity.”

A response to the Foundation’s letter of Nov. 28, 1994, was received on January 10, 1995, stating, in part:

“When our legal review is completed, we will take appropriate action as necessary.”

It has been rumored that the state has considered removing the cross from its present location to a site across the street contemplated for a new park.

“That would really be six of one, half a dozen of the other. A change of venue from one public land to another would not remedy the violation, or conform to the Missouri Constitution’s guarantee that ‘no person can be compelled to erect, support, or attend any place or system of worship,’ ” observes Anne Gaylor, Foundation president.

Since no assurances have been received that the state will expeditiously remove the cross, the Foundation has made public its complaint about government-sponsored religion in the land of Limbaugh.

Let the fireworks begin!

Letters may be sent to the Department of Highways & Transportation, PO Box 270, Jefferson City MO 65102 and to Southeast Missourian, 301 Broadway, PO Box 699, Cape Girardeau, MO 63702.

Freedom From Religion Foundation