Crosses displayed in Ohio village challenged


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A group advocating the separation
of church and state is protesting a pair of crosses displayed for Easter
on a tiny eastern Ohio village’s municipal building.
The Madison,
Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has challenged the claim by
the mayor of Stratton that it’s constitutional to display the crosses
during holidays.
Mayor John Abdalla temporarily removed the
crosses in January after the foundation threatened to sue, but he
returned them to celebrate the Easter season. One is Latin, the other
Eastern Orthodox.
Abdalla told the Steubenville Herald-Star that
such seasonal displays were allowed. The mayor declined to comment when
contacted Wednesday by The Associated Press, including saying whether
the crosses still adorned the building’s facade.
He told the newspaper he planned to remove them at the end of April. Easter is this Sunday.
an April 8 letter, the foundation said religious displays on public
buildings represent a violation of the First Amendment regardless of
what time of year it is.
"While the permanent display of these
crosses by the Village is indisputably unconstitutional, the seasonal
display of the crosses in recognition of Easter, the Christian
celebration of Jesus’s resurrection, is no less illegal," staff attorney
Rebecca Markert wrote. "The display of these crosses is illegal because
it represents government endorsement of the Christian religion."
foundation said this week that the village hasn’t replied to its
letter, which requested that the village remove the display.
said he didn’t want to discuss the matter nor could he suggest anyone
who would. "No one’s going to talk about this," he said.
It’s not the first debate over religious freedom in the village.
2002, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Watchtower Society in a
lawsuit challenging a Stratton ordinance that imposed registration
requirements and penalties on house-to-house solicitation. Justices
ruled the law violated the First Amendment of Jehovah’s Witnesses who
wished to distribute religious pamphlets door-to-door in the village.
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