Ken Herman of the Austin American-Statesman asks a fair question: What would you think if you saw this sign on the highway?
Maybe your first reaction would be: That’s really sad. Some Christian must have died in that location on that date.
While someone died there, the intention of the sign is more specific and less religious than you might think. It’s supposed to provide “increased awareness of motorcycle safety,” and that red cross is considered a “nonsectarian symbol of death.”
“Non-sectarian.” So if an atheist dies in a motorcycle accident, House Bill 2469, from 2011, says that the only option available for a sign is one that includes a red cross.
TxDOT spokeswoman Veronica Beyer says the cross is not a religious symbol.
“The red cross is a symbol recognized by the motorcycle community,” she told me. “Our understanding is that the motorcycle community assisted the bill sponsor in developing the language (in the bill), which included the red cross.” This red cross is in the shape of the one used by Christianity, not the American Red Cross.
I can’t decide if these people are lying or genuinely ignorant of how a cross is undoubtedly a Christian symbol.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter over this issue back in 2013 (also noting that the signs do nothing to improve motorcycle safety), but nothing came of it. The state just pretended there was no promotion of religion going on:
In his response to Gaylor, [TxDOT’s former executive director Phil] Wilson said this cross has no religious significance.
“The design of the sign, including the use of this specific cross, was selected by TxDOT’s Traffic Division and is based on a motorcycle fatality awareness patch used by a Texas motorcycle rights organization,” Wilson told Gaylor. “The red cross design was selected by TxDOT as a nonsectarian symbol of death and not to advance or endorse Christianity.”
Funny how you never see “non-sectarian” Muslim or Jewish symbols used to represent death…
Unless a Texan wants to sue over this, though, nothing will change.
(Thanks to @DBryte for the link)