FFRF objects to cross on Pa. city property

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is challenging a Pennsylvania city on its display of a cross on government property.

A concerned local resident reported that a large cross and a star fixture is erected on city property in Gibbons Memorial Park in Honesdale, Pa. The cross is reportedly lit up annually during the Easter holiday and the star at Christmas every year.

It is well-settled law that the display of religious iconography on public property is a serious constitutional violation, FFRF points out. Additionally, the illumination of the star during Christmas implies that the Honesdale city administration is celebrating the religious elements of the Christmas holiday, another First Amendment violation.

“The cross unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity, writes FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert in her letter to Honesdale Mayor Sarah Canfield. “The cross has an exclusionary effect, making non-Christian and non-believing residents of Honesdale political outsiders.”

FFRF is asking that the city remove the cross and star from city property immediately or direct the display to be moved to a more appropriate private location.

FFRF brought this to the attention of the city in June, but the topic wasn’t added to a city council meeting until this month, after a local news station filed a Right to Know request. The revelation caused an outcry among local residents who attended the meeting to defend the cross.

“As the uproar demonstrates, religious iconography is divisive and has no place on public property,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “The city cannot and should not be using public resources to promote a sectarian agenda.”

FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with over 32,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 900 members and a chapter in Pennsylvania. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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