A cross has been removed from a Texas fire station as a result of the Freedom From Religion Foundation's efforts.
FFRF had contacted the city of Longview last December about a cross erected on a local fire station's lawn next to the station's sign. An area resident had alerted the state/church separation watchdog.
"The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages," FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote to Longview Fire Chief J.P. Steelman. "It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for a government to display a Latin cross on its property because it conveys a preference of the city of Longview for religion over nonreligion and Christianity over all minority faiths."
Such a display, FFRF underlined, ends up alienating about a fourth of the population that is nonreligious, as well as those who practice religions other than Christianity.
"The religious significance of the cross is unambiguous and indisputable," Grover wrote. "One federal court of appeals has already explicitly ruled that a lighted Latin cross could not be displayed during Christmas on a fire station. A Latin cross displayed by the government is precisely the sort of religious endorsement prohibited by the Establishment Clause."
FFRF's message got through this season.
"A cross that caused a stir when it was erected a year ago as part of a Longview fire station's Christmas display went up again this year — until city officials asked firefighters to remove it," the Longview News-Journal reports.
"It's our practice to follow what case law has shown throughout the United States," city spokesperson Shawn Hara told the paper. "So that is to not display on our city-owned property displays that are specifically sectarian — things like the cross."
Grover explained to the Longview paper on behalf of FFRF why the organization focuses on such instances.
"The whole point of state-church separation is to ensure that everyone has the right to worship or not worship as they choose," he said. "You can't have freedom of religious belief in a country that doesn't have freedom from religion in government."
That is a point FFRF wishes everyone would accept.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has almost 25,000 nonreligious members all over the country, including more than 1,000 in Texas.