An overpass near Effingham High School in central Illinois no longer has a Christian mural on it, months after a complaint was made.
The saga began earlier this year when a “football moms” group at the school commissioned an artist to paint the mural, which can really only be seen by students walking from the school to the football stadium. The final product included a giant Christian cross.
When a local citizen informed the Freedom From Religion Foundation about it, they sent a letter telling the mayor why this was a legal violation. (It’s not rocket science.)
A mural that depicts nothing except a Latin cross alongside the American flag sends a clear message: that patriotism and religiosity are interrelated… To avoid constitutional concerns and divisiveness among the Effingham community, we request that the portion of the mural depicting Christian iconography be removed.
Even the mayor’s office urged the school to take it down, though one official apologized while saying it.
[Artist Jamie Stang-Ellis] said she was contacted by City Administrator Steve Miller, who indicated the cross needed to be removed. She said Miller was apologetic, but said the action needs to be taken.
The letter from the Mayor was part of an email in which he states that the City was approached seeking approval for the mural. Approval was granted once the City consulted Unit 40. [Mayor Mike] Schutzbach wrote, “it was not known to the city or school that a cross would be part of the artwork. After the work was completed, a complaint was filed.”
City Administrator Steve Miller said city officials researched the matter and the City Council discussed the issue in closed session under matters of litigation. Miller said the Council directed that he have the cross painted over. He said the City accepted the mural so it can remain, with the portion that formerly contained the cross painted over as part of the sunrise. The other segments of the mural, including the US flag, remain.
Naturally, they announced all this with a statement that’s also unnecessarily apologetic in its tone. But the cross will no longer stare down at students and send the message that Jews and atheists and Muslims will burn in Hell forever.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)