No Blessings For Florida Cross (September 1995)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has written the city commissioners of Stuart, Florida, to oppose its recent 3-2 vote to permit a fundamentalist group to erect a cross in a public park.

An ad hoc group of about 14 people, calling themselves, ironically, the “Martin County Patriots for Peace,” protested the erection several months ago of a peace pole in a small park near City Hall. The innocuous 6-1/2-feet tall cedar pole reads “May Peace Prevail On Earth,” etched in its sides in four languages and in Braille. But the fundamentalists contend it is shaped like a heathen obelisk, and should be removed. City commissioners polled several religious leaders to determine that it was not a religious symbol, and installed it in March.

In August, the group of religionists asked to erect a 6-foot cross next to the peace pole, allegedly in a tactic to pressure the city to remove the “pagan” peace pole. However, Mayor Kevin Henderson and two other commissioners agreed to the request to erect a permanent cross, etched with the phrase, “Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the mayor and commissioners, pointing out that there has been no instance in which a litigated cross, permanently erected on public property, has ever been permitted to stay.

“It is within Commission sphere to consider the erection of secular markings and monuments. It is simply outside the purview of public officials to take action which endorses and promotes Christianity or any religion over other religions, or over nonreligion.” It also violates Art. 1, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution preventing money to be taken directly or indirectly from the public treasury to aid any church, sect, or religious denomination.

Reporter Linda Allen with Stuart News reported the Foundation’s objections indepth. Also opposed is the Palm Beach County office of the Anti-Defamation League.

Cross supporters are arguing that the city created a “forum for public expression” by erecting the peace pole.

City Commissioner Susan Hershey, who voted against the cross, said she thinks the peace pole should stay.

“I don’t think it creates a forum for public expression. I really think the concept of peace should be held precious by everyone.”

Mail can be sent to Mayor Kevin Henderson and City Commissioners at 121 S.W. Flagler Avenue, Stuart FL 34994.

Freedom From Religion Foundation