Atheist activists are taking aim at a small, white cross that is part of a veterans’ monument inside an Indiana state park, claiming that its presence on public property is a violation of the separation of church and state.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a letter August 20, complaining about the 14-inch cross that is part of the memorial at Liberty, Indiana’s Whitewater Memorial State Park and noting that it should promptly be removed, according to the Indianapolis Star.
“No secular purpose, no matter how sincere, will detract from the overall message that the Latin cross stands for Christianity and the overall display promotes Christianity,” wrote Rebecca S. Markert, an attorney with the atheist group.
The cross is at the bottom of an 8-foot wooden statue that includes a bald eagle, a soldier and Indiana’s state flag along with a message that reads, “All gave some; Some gave all.”
The statue was recently donated to the park and no public funds were used for its creation; officials are currently deciding whether it will be able to stay.
Debate over the Christian symbol first set off earlier this sumer when Wendell Bias, a local restaurant owner and an Army veteran, reached out to the Department of Natural Resources, complaining that the cross wasn’t appropriate, the Indianapolis Star reported.
“I just thought that a memorial to veterans in a veterans’ park didn’t need to be turned into a religious shrine,” Bias, who said he isn’t sure who reported it to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, told the outlet.
In a Facebook post August 20, Bias expressed his “regret” for “causing such an uprising,” but said that he isn’t to blame for the debate, as the memorial, in his view, shouldn’t have included a Christian symbol in the first place.
And Dayle L. Lewis, the sculptor, has spoken out amid furor, explaining that the cross was added to fill empty space and to give the image of a soldier standing over a grave. He said that he didn’t anticipate this would become a religious issue.
But the Freedom From Religion Foundation says it most definitely is.
“The cross is the premier symbol of Christianity. It is more religious than the nativity and courts have treated it so,” Markert added in an interview with Palladium-Item. “In California there was one very similar to this, with a soldier kneeling in prayer at a cross. The court struck it down.”
According to a press release, the Freedom From Religion Foundation wants the cross removed and replaced “with a secular symbol” or the statue moved to another location.
Many local veterans and their supports are rallying in an effort to save the cross, with more than 800 people joining a Facebook group called “Keep the Cross on the Carving at Whitewater Memorial State Park.”
(H/T: Fox News)