A public park in the city of Ozark, Missouri has a Christian cross made of lights around a utility pole. It’s lit it up in the evenings, marking a clear promotion of Christianity by the government.
Earlier this month, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent officials a letter urging them to shut off the lights, remove the cross structure altogether, and quit violating the Constitution. The question was how the city would respond.
Officials initially said they wouldn’t light the cross this winter while they figured out a long term solution… but within hours of making that decision, and after plenty of backlash for their attempt to follow the law, they reversed course. The cross would be lit this Christmas, dammit.
So what now?
The city announced this afternoon that Sunday would be the final day of the light display. After that, while a permanent solution was discussed, the cross structure itself would be altered… as if the crucifixion occurred with the arms of Jesus folded behind his back.
… this structure was originally constructed with arms that could be lowered at the conclusion of the annual light display. Therefore, the immediate solution will be to leave the three story structure and supporting wooden pole in its current location, but lower the horizontal arms of the cross until a final decision can be made.
And armless cross! That’s not even a cross. That’s just a pole with unlit bulbs around it. But it would certainly be a neutral temporary solution.
Ozark City Attorney Amanda Callaway provided the legal opinion that the city should stop featuring the cross in its community light display. Her decision, Ozark City Administrator Steve Childers said, is based on years of case law in which cities have lost lawsuits trying to protect displays that could be construed as religious.
The lawyers get it. The citizens don’t, at least on Facebook, where many commenters have urged the city to once again reconsider its correct decision.
You won’t see this many people advocating illegal and illogical policies outside a Trump rally.
But just for the sake of argument… FFRF usually wins these cases, the Supreme Court has never said these displays are secular (because they’re not), no one’s stopping Christians from putting crosses on their front yards, the majority’s will doesn’t override the minority’s rights, these defenders of Christianity would be freaking out if the city put up an Islamic symbol in the same way, and the Branson cross is on private property.
If the city’s officials are wise, they’ll listen to their attorneys and not the people clamoring for Christian supremacy online. If they continue promoting religion even after all these warnings, FFRF will have no choice but to file a lawsuit, and they’ll inevitably win. That will eventually mean money being paid out of the city’s account… which is to say taxpayers will be on the hook for this foolish fight.
They’ve been warned. Now they just have to decide which minds are worth listening to: The people who know what they’re talking about or the Christians complaining online.
(Image via Facebook. Thanks to Eric for the link)