Once again, water tower crosses — this time in Roberts, Idaho — are sparking intense debate.
A local resident, identified by KIDK-TV as Joe Cohea, recently took issue with the fact that the city’s tower was adorned with three crosses. While it’s unclear whether his angst is rooted in atheism, Cohea has certainly made known his views about the expression of religious sentiment on government property.
Worrying that the symbols gave an impression that Roberts favors Christians over other religious people, he took his concerns to city hall and to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“My opinion is no kind of religious symbol belongs on city property, period,” Cohea told KIDK-TV.
The city agreed that the population is certainly diverse, but Mayor Robert Berlin said that Roberts has always been welcoming to everyone, regardless of religious of cultural viewpoints. The politician also said that anyone is allowed to post a religious symbol on the water tower — so long as it isn’t offensive.
This, though, according to KIDK-TV, isn’t satisfying Cohea or the ACLU. For the moment, the controversy has tempered, as the crosses have been removed and replaced with American flags — clearly more universal symbols of national unity.
But the debate may not be over. Cohea claims that he will, once again, go after the crosses if they are posted. Additionally, he plans to take his grievances to the town when a nativity scene that is displayed each year in the city park re-emerges next Christmas. He will, again, appeal to the ACLU for assistance.
The take away: Some towns apparently have a penchant for allowing Christian crosses on water towers. Just the same, atheist activists and church-state separatists have an affinity for challenging the constitutionality of these symbols on public land. These elements, when combined, are a recipe for contentious debate.
This isn’t the first time a water tower cross has sparked intense controversy. The scenario that unfolded back in 2011 in Whiteville, Tennessee, took some interesting turns, as atheists and the mayor similarly clashed over the presence of the religious symbol (although the town was a bit more unrelenting in this previous situation).