La Crescent, Minn., has long played host to a cross and a star that are lit up to celebrate Easter and Christmas. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog, has lodged a complaint on behalf of local residents in protest of the city's practice of allowing these religious decorations on public land.
The symbols, mounted together on the bluffs above the city, have been illuminated to celebrate religious holidays for decades. "A cross cannot be displayed on city property to celebrate Easter," FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert informed the city in a recent letter. "The religious significance of the Latin cross is unambiguous and indisputable."
The star's coupling with the cross "seems to suggest that the city is celebrating the religious aspect of the Christmas holiday, which is another violation of the First Amendment," Markert continued. Displaying the symbols "confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause."
The La Crescent City Council is set to debate the matter at its next meeting. FFRF asks the city to remove the cross and star or direct the display be moved to "a more appropriate private location."
FFRF is working with the La Crosse Area Freethought Society, a freethought group across the Mississippi from La Crescent in La Crosse, Wis., to ensure the display is removed.
FFRF has more than 22,500 members, including over 500 members and a chapter in Minnesota.