State/Church Watchdog Makes $1,200 Bid on Holmen “Star Hill” Site

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., has formally offered $1,200 for a 990-foot bite of land on what is known as the “Star Hill” cross site in Holmen, Wis.

The Foundation, which had previously criticized the Village for owning and lighting a cross (and a lighted star most of the year) on public property, got involved when it was reported that an appraisal done for the Holmen Lions Club put the value at only $100–which works out to only $3 per foot. The Lions Club has maintained the cross on this property for about half a century.

The Foundation objects to what looks like a “sweetheart deal,” in which the village is preparing to sell off a small parcel of land at low cost in a no-bid situation, to a prearranged buyer who has agreed in advance to maintain the cross during Lent in the same spot.

Earlier this week the Foundation placed the Village on notice that it wanted a chance to bid on the land. An attorney on behalf of the Village said the bid must be received by April 30. The formal offer was mailed today by overnight delivery and included $200 in earnest money.

Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said that while she is pleased the Village is taking steps to divest itself of an unlawful symbol showing preference for one religion, she objects to the unnecessary sale of public property, which will inevitably detract from the public value of the hill.

“It would make far more sense to auction off the cross and star. The problem isn’t Village ownership of the Hill. The problem is Village ownership and maintenance of religious symbols,” she added.

“It seems the real intent behind the offer to sell the property to the Lions Club is to simply ensure that this prominent symbol of Christianity remains exactly where it has been. We believe the Village cannot lawfully limit bidders for the land only to those who will maintain the cross on the same spot.”

She said such an action would be a sham and “continue the unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity by a public body.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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