FFRF objects to cross atop public library

Crosses belong on churchtops, not on public libraries, even in the bible belt.

That's the gist of the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Dec. 10 letter to library officials in Hawkins County, Tenn., about the display of an illuminated Latin cross atop a Christmas tree decoration in Church Hill. A county resident who said the cross was also there last Christmas alerted FFRF to the constitutional violation.

"No court of final resort has ever upheld the government’s permanent display of a Latin cross on public land as constitutional," wrote Rebecca Markert, FFRF senior staff attorney, citing court crosses disallowing the use of the religious symbol. "The inherent religious significance of the Latin cross is undeniable and is not disguisable. No secular purpose, no matter how sincere, will detract from the overall message that the Latin cross stands for Christianity and the overall display promotes Christianity."

In addition, Markert noted, the cross also violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. "The public library is clearly marked as 'Church Hill Public Library,' which allows all passersby to identify it as a county building. Its hosting of a powerful sectarian symbol cannot be seen as a traditional decoration of the holiday season, but instead can only be a message of government support for Christianity.

"Given that the cross is prominently displayed on the roof of the library, and can be seen by many passersby, particularly at night when it is illuminated, a reasonable observer could only conclude that Hawkins County Library System supports and approves its religious message."

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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