A humanist organization announced last week that it is taking a New Jersey town and its mayor to court for displaying what they call an unconstitutional display of a Christian cross in front of its library.
In a suit filed Sept. 27, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center and Roselle Park Councilwoman Charlene Storey and her husband Gregory Storey declared they want a display featuring a silhouette of a soldier kneeling in front of a cross removed from its spot outside the Roselle Park Veterans Memorial Library. The plaintiffs stated that a Christian symbol can’t be displayed on public property.
“A cross displayed on government property, approved by the mayor and borough council, endorses religion in clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” Monica Miller, senior counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said the day the suit was filed. “The city’s duty is to remain religiously neutral to respect the rights of all of its citizens rather than promoting Christianity.”
According to CBS News, Roselle Park Mayor Carl Hokanson, a former Marine, personally paid for the display and donated it to the town.
In a statement provided to TAP Into Roselle, Hokanson said that he cannot comment on pending litigation but does want the town to know that “when I donated the ‘Kneeling Soldier’ it was with the utmost respect for ALL VETERANS!!”
“To say that I was singling out a select group was far from the truth,” Hokanson said, arguing that a majority of the town’s residents support keeping the display.
“I strongly believe, like many of you, that this tribute to our veterans should remain as is,” he said, adding that he will temporarily remove the display while the lawsuit plays out in court.
NJ.com reported, “At least three requests from Roselle Park residents to donate other veterans memorials — one with an atheist symbol, one with a Jewish star and one without a religious symbol — are pending.”
In August, WCBS-TV reported that arguments about the whether or not the display is constitutional were a source of controversy in the town.
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