A couple of weeks ago, a U.S. District Court judge said that a giant Christian cross on city property in Pensacola, Florida was unconstitutional and had to come down within 30 days.
We already know representatives of one group offered to buy the land on which the cross sits — turning it into private property and allowing the cross the remain standing. But the city hasn’t taken any action on that yet.
Now we know why. They want to appeal the ruling.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which represented the plaintiffs along with the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, explains why this is a horrible decision:
The city’s decision to appeal seems to have been bolstered by the offer of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty to represent it for free. Unfortunately, taxpayers are still on the hook for legal fees when FFRF and AHA win. The Becket Fund is a theocracy-rationalizing organization that FFRF has sparred with in the past and knows only too well. FFRF and the American Humanist Association are committed to seeing this case through to its rightful end.
“The city is at cross-purposes with the Constitution,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The Constitution demands that the Bayview Cross be removed.”
This is an important point. City officials may think this is a no-lose situation since they have free legal representation, but when they lose this case, it’s the taxpayers who will be on the hook to pay the fees for the atheists’ attorneys. Do city officials know this? Do they care?
This issue isn’t even a real debate. Pensacola will lose this case. Even Judge Roger Vinson made that explicitly clear in his original ruling:
… the mayor has said that he does not want the cross taken down specifically because he hopes there will “always [be] a place for religion in the public square,” which is essentially an admission that the cross has been sustained for a religious purpose.
… I am aware that there is a lot of support in Pensacola to keep the cross as is, and I understand and respect that point of view. But, the law is the law.
… this is not a “borderline case.” Indeed, based on the undisputed facts (i.e., the nature of the Latin cross, its dedication at the Easter Sunrise Service, and the mayor’s statements), the Bayview Cross clearly has a primarily — if not exclusively — religious purpose.
What on earth do city officials think an appeals court will say? That the giant Christian cross used for Christian gatherings and erected with Christianity in mind is (and always has been) a secular symbol?
These officials are wasting time and money. And you can bet your ass that the folks at Becket don’t care. They will fundraise all they can based on the mere fact that they’re fighting this case. The fact that they’ll lose is irrelevant.