City Attorney Roger Day of Elizabethton, Tennessee is defending three crosses displayed on public land after atheists demanded they be removed, according to CBN News. Though the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) argued that the presence of the crosses violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, Day respectfully disagreed, asserting that the crosses are constitutional and are permitted to remain on the public land. With great support, Day defended the cross display along with local churches and residents who made their voices heard.
CBN News reports that the FFRF demanded the crosses be taken down from the top of Lynn Mountain, claiming “the religious symbols’ presence on city-owned land is a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.” FFRF legal fellow Karen Heineman recently told WJHL-TV that the crosses “have a pretty obviously Christian message,” adding “it sends, I think, a pretty obvious message of endorsement of Christianity.”
In disagreement, Day declared that the crosses are permitted to stay on the property citing his review of the current law concerning displays of religious symbols. Citing the U.S. Supreme Court Case of American Legion v. American Humanist Association, Day stated, “I agree with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in American Legion, which held that ‘long standing monuments, symbols and practices’ with ‘religious associations have’ a ‘presumption of constitutionality.’” He further asserted that the crosses are not in violation of “separation of church and state.”
Day had the support of residents along with the First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit conservative legal firm that “offered pro bono representation to the city and purported last month that no constitutional violation is in play.” A local church in the community created their own display resembling that of the crosses on Lynn Mountain, and they gave out crosses in support of them as well. Though strongly defending the display, the pastor of Hunter Memorial Baptist church, Doug Hartley, encouraged the community to have a respectful disagreement, being kind in how they handle the matter.
Erected in the 1950s by a group of boys completing an Easter project for their church, the three crosses “had become a staple in the community,” according to the Johnson City Press. With the FFRF first complaining about the display in 2018, the crosses still remain standing today. The amount of support from the community, and Day’s declaration, continues to protect the cross display honorably and with fervor.