Chicago Suburb Drops Holiday Cross Over Lawsuit Threat
A Wisconsin-based foundation threatened to sue the village over the display of a cross used in Christmas decorations. The Freedom from Religion Foundation said the village's Holiday Cross is "unconstitutional."
A cross traditionally displayed on a water tower in a Chicago suburb won't be put up this year following the threat of a lawsuit from a Wisconsin-based foundation.
For 35 years, the Cook County suburb of Alsip has installed a holiday cross decoration on its West Water Tower. A letter from Mayor Patrick Kitching on the village's website said that this year, the cross won't be on display.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation threatened to sue the village over the symbol, Kitching's letter states.
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"I am very saddened by this and had hoped we would not have to change tradition," Kitching states in the letter. "However in these economic times, the village cannot afford to waste any tax dollars on a lawsuit that simply cannot be won."
A staff attorney from the Freedom from Religion Foundation wrote the Alsip village in December 2011, objecting to a display of a cross on village property. By putting up a Latin cross, Alsip is demonstrating a preference for Christianity over other religions, the organization argues.
The "fundamental principle" of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment, says the government can't "advance, promote or endorse religion," the foundation's letter states. Displaying the cross demonstrates "government endorsements of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause."
The letter cites cases brought against other municipalities where federal courts supported the idea that a Christian cross is a religious symbol, according to the foundation's letter. It mentions bringing a lawsuit against the Town of Whiteville, Tenn., over a similar matter.
"No court of final resort has ever upheld the government's permanent display of a Christian cross on public land as constitutional," the letter states.
Alsip chose, instead, not to "waste taxpayer dollars to fight a losing battle in court," according to the village's letter.
The water tower cross will be replaced with a different decoration in the future but it wasn't certain to happen in time for Christmas 2012, Kitching writes.
Editor's note: This story inititally ran on Palos Patch, written by Nick Swedberg.
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