New Jersey officials who mandated that a man remove a Christian cross from his private property have taken decisive action to avoid a contentious -- not to mention expensive -- First Amendment legal battle.
The initial drama, which we first reported on The Blaze back in July, unfolded after neighbors who didn't like the cross complained. As a result, officials upheld a littering ordinance that prohibits citizens from posting anything on structures, including trees. The regulation is breached if posted items are “calculated to attract the attention of the public.”
The cross, posted by Patrick Racaniello, initially violated these standards. When the town asked him to remove it, he complied. Then, when he created another version of it and placed it on his lawn, he was again found to be in violation of yet another township regulation. At this point, Racaniello decided to take his case to the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, a group of Christian lawyers who typically involve themselves in such matters.
Below, watch the original WABC-TV report for more on this issue:
Knowing full-well that a major battle would unfold if the issue made its way into the courts, township officials buckled. In an effort to quell the debate that was quickly boiling over, they amended the township code. NJ.com has more:
The change, approved unanimously by the township council Tuesday night, means the Sterling Drive resident who helped bring about the amended ordinance can now display a cross on a tree in his front yard — as long as the tree is not in the municipal right-of-way.
According to the amended ordinance, residents are no longer prohibited to put up notices or other postings on a structure as long as those structures are not within public right-of-ways, including 10-foot buffers that extend from curb lines onto private property.
This decision not only avoids a court battle, but it also ensures that Racaniello will have the ability to place the cross in his yard. While his neighbors may not be happy with the decision, Racaniello will likely feel as though justice has been served.