The Freedom From Religion Foundation is requesting that a Missouri town remove a massive cross on public property.
There is a Christian cross at Big Spring Park in the city of Neosho. It is very large, up to 60 feet in length, on the side of a hill at the park. A concerned local resident informs FFRF that very recently the cross has been illuminated every night.
The religious significance of the Latin cross is unambiguous and indisputable.
“A majority of federal courts have held displays of Latin crosses on public property to be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” FFRF Managing Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert writes to outgoing Neosho Mayor Charles Collinsworth. “The inherent religious significance of the Latin cross is undeniable and is not disguisable. No secular purpose detracts from the overall message that the Latin cross stands for Christianity and that the display promotes Christianity.”
And even if the cross were only displayed and illuminated during the holiday season in December, there would still be constitutional concerns, FFRF adds. A Latin cross is not a permissible Christmas decoration for a city to display.
Plus, the cross unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity. It conveys the message to the nearly 30 percent of Americans who are not Christians, including the 23 percent of Americans who are not religious, that they are not “favored members of the political community,” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court. The cross has an exclusionary effect, making non-Christian and nonbelieving residents of Neosho political outsiders.
“There is no religious test for citizenship, but public Christian displays such as these make it seem that there is,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The city of Neosho needs to be truly welcoming of all its residents.”
FFRF is asking the city of Neosho to immediately remove the cross from Big Spring Park or direct the display be moved to a more appropriate private location.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 29,000 nonreligious members across the country, including 300-plus in Missouri. FFRF’s purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.