***Update***: This afternoon, Knightstown officials removed the cross from atop the tree.
The town council made the decision to remove the cross after they said they wouldn’t win the court case brought by the ACLU, and they couldn’t pay the legal fees.
Emphasis on the first part. They weren’t going to win, so they decided to comply with the law. That’s all there is to it.
The city of Knightstown, Indiana is being sued because a Christmas tree in the town square is topped by a Christian cross. Plaintiff Joseph Tompkins, a taxpayer in the community, says that constitutes an illegal endorsement of religion.
According to the lawsuit, this tree is the only holiday display on the property, adding to the notion that the city is promoting Christianity exclusively.
At the top of the tree is placed a large Latin cross, which is illuminated at night by lights that circle it. There are no other holiday decorations on the square. The cross is the best known symbol of Christianity and Knightstown’s prominent display of this symbol represents an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
FOX59 managed to speak to one of the plaintiff’s relatives. He clearly doesn’t understand the difference between private practice of religion and government endorsement of it:
Mark Tompkins says he doesn’t buy that seeing the display is hurting Joe in any way.
“There’s a church on every corner here,” said Mark. “There’s a church on every corner. Is he offended by all the crosses?”
Everyone FOX59 spoke to says they support the town fighting this legal battle. If the cross has to come down, Mark Tompkins and others have a solution for that too.
“He can take it down and I tell you what, I’ll park this car here until Christmas Day with three crosses on it,” said Tompkins.
Churches have a right to exist. You can put crosses on your car, too. This isn’t about being “offended” by the crosses. This is about the government sending a message that one particular faith matters while the rest of them (and atheism) don’t.
On a side note, Mark isn’t the only relative angered by what Joseph is doing. Joseph’s uncle posted his own critical remarks on Facebook. Their Thanksgiving dinner must be super awkward…
The non-Joseph Tompkinses aren’t alone in their ignorance:
To show the town’s support for the cross no matter the outcome, Patricia Hutson and her husband will be handing out crosses Saturday by the tree for any Knightstown residents who want them.
That’s fine. No one’s going to stop her.
Is Joseph Tompkins the only person who understands the Constitution in this community?
So far, city officials have not said how they plan to respond to the lawsuit. But fighting it would be a waste of time, money, and resources. They should just remove the cross, apologize for not understanding the law, and encourage all citizens to celebrate the season however they’d like.
(via Religion Clause)