Secular groups file for summary judgment in Fla. cross case


The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Legal Center have filed for summary judgment in their lawsuit challenging a large Christian cross that the city of Pensacola owns, displays and funds.

The 30-foot white Latin cross dominates the public Bayview Park, where it is maintained by the city. The cross is also the site of numerous Easter Sunrise services, frequently co-hosted by Christian churches. A plaque specifically referencing Easter sits at the base of a platform near the cross.

The two organizations filed the suit against the city after residents of Pensacola, who objected to the cross on public property, contacted them in 2015. When the city refused to respond to warning letters and remove the cross from government property, the groups teamed up to take legal action the following year. 

The motion for summary judgment, filed on April 21, asks the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division, to issue a declaratory judgment that the cross violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as an injunction requiring removal of the cross from the taxpayer-funded land where it currently stands.

“The city of Pensacola is flouting the First Amendment and excluding nonbelievers and non-Christians by maintaining this unmistakable endorsement of Christianity,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “All we’re requesting is that it adhere to this country’s founding document and court precedent barring such endorsement.”

The American Humanist Association concurs with the sentiment.

“By prominently displaying a massive Christian cross on government property, the city is sending a strong message to its citizens that Christians are preferred,” says Monica Miller, senior counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “This message violates the Constitution, as numerous courts have made clear.”

The memorandum in support of the motion for summary judgment can be found here

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. With more than 28,000 members, the organization also educates the pubic about nontheism.

Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which — without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces — encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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