In Spartanburg, South Carolina, whenever there’s a fatal accident on the road, County Coroner Rusty Clevenger honors the lives of those who died by marking the spot with a Christian cross:
Clevenger said painting the crosses was first approved through the state Department of Transportation. He said the painted crosses on the asphalt are more permanent and serve as a reminder to drive carefully since the painting is at the spot on the road where the crash occurred.
The evening following the cross painting, Clevenger spoke at an annual vigil for those slain in violent crimes. He defined sympathy as a feeling of compassion for another’s suffering and read a scripture from the Bible.
On a personal level, it’s admirable what he’s trying to do. However, since the Spartanburg Herald Journal won’t ask the obvious questions, I guess I have to play the bad guy here:
Is this illegal?
Does this constitute a government endorsement of Christianity?
Is Clevenger being disrespectful to people who may have been Muslim or Jewish?
Will he paint a Scarlet A if an atheist dies?
If families want to erect temporary roadside memorials with a religious theme (that aren’t a distraction to other drivers), I don’t have a problem with it. But this seems like a problem waiting to happen. Clevenger is making the assumption that all families would appreciate having their loved ones remembered with a symbol of Christianity. I know it’s South Carolina, but that won’t always be the case.
I sent an email to Spartanburg city officials asking how they plan to handle that issue if and when it occurs. I’ll post an update if I hear back.
(Image via Shutterstock)