It’s depressing whenever you see a cross on the side of the road because it was probably placed there by the family member of someone who died in a car accident. That’s perfectly legal… to a point. It can’t be up there forever (though there’s no hard and fast rule about when it must come down) and the city can’t put it up or maintain it. It’s not the government’s place to promote Christianity — even in the wake of a death.
That’s why a cross on the side of a road in Salem, Oregon is a problem.
According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, it’s not apparent why the cross is there, but the city is now maintaining the area around it, allowing the Christian symbol to remain in place indefinitely and creating the perception that the city is promoting it.
“The religious significance of the Latin cross is unambiguous and indisputable,” FFRF Managing Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert writes to Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett. “A majority of federal courts have held displays of Latin crosses on public property to be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.”
“The city shouldn’t be spending scarce public resources in the maintenance of a sectarian agenda,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Many taxpayers in Salem would object to their hard-earned money going toward sprucing up crosses.”
FFRF is asking the city to immediately move the cross from Kuebler Boulevard — and any other Latin cross display on Salem public property — to a more appropriate private location.
Again, we don’t know why the cross is there. It’s unclear if it represents someone who died. It’s unclear who put it there. All we know is that city officials don’t have a problem with it and they’re going out of their way to maintain the area around it. It’s a step too far and it needs to stop.