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Freethought Today

Vol. 21 No. 8 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
October 2004

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Foundation Protests Celtic Cross, Plaque in Public Park

Acting on behalf of a Foundation member, the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote the city-hosted museum in Moorhead, Minn., on Sept. 18 seeking removal of a large cross and a highly objectionable plaque from a public park outside the museum.

The plaque in front of the cross, which is monogrammed with Greek and Latin religious symbols and words, reads (unbelievably):

"A tribute to those intrepid Celtic monks and priests who, with the Gospel of Christ's love and together with other Catholic orders helped make the transition from the viking pagan culture to a Christian nation. ODIN FOUGHT - CHRIST WON."

An original complaint was made in the past by Moorhead resident Chuck Wallace, who was assured more than a year ago that the plaque would be removed. It was not.

The Foundation objected not only to the plaque but to the cross, which has strange, bite-sized holes in it. The museum, which is linked to on the city website, describes these holes as representing the "wounds of Christ."

The cross and plaque were a tandem gift from a Lutheran pastor five years ago.

"We don't just have one ancient religion, Odinism, put down, and Christianity plugged (like it's a cheer at a football game), but we have Roman Catholicism singled out," wrote Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Foundation in her letter to the Hjemkomst Interpretive Center. "This cross is at most a quite unattractive replica, donated with the purpose of promoting Christianity."

She added: "It is instructive that every challenge of a cross on public land that has been fully adjudicated has ended in a court ruling that crosses cannot be placed permanently on public property."

The city of Moorhead owns the facilities, which is part of an extensive city park with walkways, canoe rentals and bike trails. Other tenants include the Chamber of Commerce. Some museum employees are city employees, according to Wallace.

The grounds also display a replica of a Stave Church. While no one has complained about the church, which has architecturally unique features and is not used for worship, its outdoor presence adds to the message that Christianity is being actively promoted.

The museum director phoned the Foundation to inform it that a "new plaque" was being erected. Although he promised to fax the wording and the rental agreement with the city, the information had not been received as of press-time.

Gaylor said the history of the placement of the cross with the original plaque makes the entire display irrevocably linked to a proselytizing message, which is inappropriate in any public park. The items should be moved to a private church, the Foundation urged.

The Foundation's action on this violation generated significant press coverage throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota.

To contact the mayor on this issue, who has expressed support for the presence of the cross, email Mayor Mark Voxland at [email protected] (City Hall, Box 779, 500 Center Ave., Moorhead MN 56561-0779).

October 2004 Excerpts