FFRF Bids on Holmen “Star Cross” Site

Protests Sweetheart Deal” to Maintain Cross

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., has formally offered to purchase what is known as the “Star Hill” cross site in Holmen, Wis. The Foundation offered $500, five times the appraised value of $100.

The Holmen Lions Club has maintained a lighted cross (which turns to a lighted star in December) on Star Hill since the 1950s. The Village took over ownership and subsidized the electricity beginning at least five years ago.

Following complaints about the state/church violation, the Village recently forwarded an appraisal to the Holmen Lions Club, which has offered to purchase the tiny parcel of the hill on which the cross sits. The village would retain ownership of the surrounding hill and the private area would be fenced.

Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor praised the village for taking steps to divest itself of the unconstitutional symbols.

But she objected to what looks like a “sweetheart deal,” in which the village is planning to sell off a small parcel of land at low cost in a no-bid situation, to a prearranged buyer who previously maintained the cross and who has agreed in advance to maintain the cross in the same spot.

In a letter of intent faxed Monday to Village administrator Catherine Schmit and Board president John Chapman, Gaylor made the formal offer, asked for a copy of the appraisal, and to have the Foundation’s offer placed on the May agenda.

“For at least five years, the Village of Holmen has unconstitutionally hosted the symbol of one religion, Christianity, on public property. The simple and sensible remedy is to remove the cross!

“The Village could put the cross up to auction and make some money for taxpayers, and it could be moved at private expense to private land, where it belongs. This would protect taxpayers’ property, satisfy the dictates of the First Amendment and satisfy worshippers.

“If the Village persists on this awkward scheme of selling off public land rather than removing the cross, then it needs to put this property out to bid openly. Otherwise it is unlawfully making maintenance of the cross a prerequisite of the sale and limiting buyers to those who support retaining the cross. This would be a sham,” Gaylor added.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., is a national association of more than 12,000 freethinkers (atheists, agnostics) that has been working since 1978 to keep church and state separate.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

Send this to a friend