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Published On: Thu, Jun 22nd, 2017

Florida: Atheists rejoice after judge agrees that Bayview Cross in Pensacola must be removed

Atheists are celebrating their presumed success at getting a cross removed from a public park in Pensacola, Florida, as noted by Fox News’ Todd Starnes.

“I am aware that there is a lot of support in Pensacola to keep the cross as is, and I understand and I understand and respect that point of view,” U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson wrote in his ruling. “But, the law is the law.”

The federal judge declared Monday that a cross erected in a Florida park violated the law and must come down.

photo screenshot of video coverage

The judge pointed out that park has hosted tens of thousands of people for roughly 75 years without causing anyone offense – until now.

“When a city park serving all citizens – nonreligious, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian – contains a towering Latin cross, this sends a message of exclusion to non-Christians, and a corresponding message to Christians that they are favored citizens,” said Annie Gaylor, the organization’s perpetually offended co-founder.

 

The lawsuit was filed in 2016 by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association on behalf of four Pensacola citizens.

 

The original cross was erected in 1941 in Bayview Park. It was replaced with a 34-foot, white “Latin Cross” in 1969 by the Pensacola Jaycees.

Judge Vinson noted in his ruling the “Bayview Cross” is “part of the rich history of Pensacola and Bayview Park in particular.”

He said the cross had been the focal point for Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day services – not to mention Easter Sunrise services.

“However, after about 75 years, the Bayview Cross can no longer stand as a permanent fixture on city-owned property.”

He directed the city of Pensacola to remove the cross within 30 days. He also ordered the city to pay the aggrieved plaintiffs one dollar in damages. That comes out to a quarter apiece.

The American Humanist Association celebrated the judge’s ruling.

“We are pleased that the Court struck down this cross as violative of the First Amendment,” attorney Monica Miller said in a statement. “The cross was totally unavoidable to park patrons, and to have citizens foot the bill for such a religion symbol is both unfair and unconstitutional.”

Judge Vinson based his ruling on a court case involving a similar cross that suffered the same fate in Rabun County, Georgia.

“If the cross under review in Rabun County violated the First Amendment and had to be removed, the cross here must suffer the same fate,” the judge wrote.

Judge Vinson seemed rather reluctant to rule against the cross.

“The historical record indicates that the Founding Fathers did not intend for the Establishment Clause to ban crosses and religious symbols from public property,” he wrote. “Indeed, ‘the enlightened patriots who framed our constitution’…would have most likely found this lawsuit absurd. And if I were deciding this case on a blank slate, I would agree and grant the plaintiffs no relief. But, alas, that is not what we have here.”

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  1. Greg Penglis says:

    Several churches, led by Echo Life Church, are gathering at the Bayview Park Cross this Sunday the 25th at 6 pm, for a multi-church service to celebrate the Cross. This is not a political rally, it is a church service, with hopefully several thousand of our close friends. Please feel free to attend and cover the event. I’ll be there. Who do you think started all this? Nice to have a radio show that airs 6-9 am Central, weekdays on 1330 AM WEBY Radio.

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