FFRF Bids $1,200 on Holmen “Star Hill” Site with Cross

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., has formally offered $1,200 for a 990-foot bite of land on what is known as the Star Hill” cross site in Holmen, Wis.

The Foundation, which had previously criticized the Village for owning and lighting a cross (and a lighted star) on public property, got involved when an appraisal for the Holmen Lions Club put the value at only $100–which works out to only $3 per square foot. The Lions Club has maintained the cross on this property for about half a century.

The Village acquired the property about five years ago.

The Foundation objects to what looks like a “sweetheart deal,” in which the Village is preparing to sell off a small parcel of land at low cost in a no-bid situation to a prearranged buyer, who has agreed in advance to maintain the cross in the same spot.

The Village ownership of a lighted cross was objected to earlier this year by Eric Barnes, a Holmen resident who is with the physics department at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Foundation co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker said that while they are pleased the Village is taking steps to divest itself of an unlawful symbol showing preference for one religion, they object to the unnecessary sale of public property, which will inevitably detract from the public value of the hill.

“It would make far more sense to auction off the cross and star, wouldn’t it? The problem isn’t Village ownership of the hill. The problem is Village ownership and maintenance of a religious symbol,” said Gaylor.

“The intent behind the offer appears to be selling the property in a way that ensures that this prominent symbol of Christianity remains exactly where it has been,” said Barker. “We believe the Village cannot lawfully limit bidders only to those who can be expected to maintain the cross on the same spot.”

Such an action would be a sham and continue the unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity by a public body.

Wisconsin Foundation member Hank Zumach of La Crosse has pledged $500 toward the Foundation’s offer.

Freedom From Religion Foundation