Indiana town removes cross from Christmas tree after ACLU lawsuit
KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. — Officials in an Indiana town removed a cross atop the town's Christmas tree because they said they could not win what was expected to be a costly lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"It is with regret and sadness that the Knightstown Town Council has had the cross removed from the Christmas tree on the town square and is expected to approve a resolution at the next council meeting stating they will not return the cross to the tree," the council said in a Facebook post.

The council cites its inability to afford fighting a legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union, a representative stated in an email to IndyStar.

Indiana's chapter of the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the town, about 40 miles east of Indianapolis, arguing the display of a Latin cross on the town square violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The lawsuit was brought by Knightstown resident Joseph Tompkins. The town of about 2,100 people held a demonstration at the town square Sunday night, dedicated to keeping the cross on the tree.

Curt Hunt, pastor of the Knightstown United Methodist Church, led the event.

"This is demonstrative of the erosion of free expression of religion," Hunt told IndyStar.

"It is unfortunate that town council was forced to take the action," Hunt said. "It's my hope in the future, someone would be able to put forward the case under the First Amendment, that such displays do not violate the establishment of the First Amendment."

Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said the decision to bring down the cross is a win for the First Amendment.

"We're obviously very happy and glad the issue could be resolved," Falk said, adding that Tompkins did not seek any monetary damages for the suit.

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"He (Tompkins) just feels very strongly about the establishment clause, and people tend to think this is an attack on religion," Falk said. "All this is, is an effort to show the government does not have an establishment of religion."

According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court this week, the cross has been placed on the top of the tree for a number of years. There are no other holiday decorations in the town square.

"The cross is the best known symbol of Christianity and Knightstown’s prominent display of this symbol represents an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," states the complaint, signed by Falk.

Complaints about overtly religious displays, holiday-oriented and otherwise, are nothing new.

The Supreme Court first addressed the constitutionality of public religious displays in 1980, when it reviewed a Kentucky law requiring public schools to display the Ten Commandments in classrooms. The court ruled Kentucky's law violated the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court relied on the precedent established in Lemon v. Kurtzman and the three-part "Lemon test." According to that ruling, the statue or display must have a secular legislative purpose, neither advancing nor prohibiting religious freedom, and must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religious affairs. The court concluded that because "requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in public school rooms has no secular legislative purpose," it is unconstitutional.

Polls show that a majority of Americans support government acknowledgment of religion.

In a 2005 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 83 percent of Americans said displays of Christmas symbols should be allowed on government property.

In another 2005 Pew poll, 74 percent of Americans said they believed it was proper to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings.

To what degree that remains the prevailing opinion a decade later is unclear.

Hunt told IndyStar that he would have been open to other religions displaying their own holiday decorations over removing the cross from the town Christmas tree.

"If we had a Jewish or Muslim community here, " he said. "I wouldn't have a problem with them displaying (decorations) for their holidays." ... u-lawsuit/95384080/
CLIMAX, CO (KTRK) -- A mine in Colorado has removed the light-up cross that has decorated the building during the holidays since the 1930s, prompting outrage by some residents.

The decision by management at Freeport-McMoRan -- one of the largest mining companies in the world that owns Climax -- to remove the cross has people here upset.

Joan Brookshire, 80, can't remember a Christmas without the cross on the building. She told KCNC, "It was a beacon."

She added, "We lost respect for traditions, lost a lot of things by giving in to somebody's I don't like and it's not fair."

Plans are in the works to replace it, but that is little consolation to the people now creating a petition to keep the cross like it's been for decades.

Resident Dan Pettus said, "It's cool to see when coming home -- like the mine itself, it's a staple of the community, this being a mining community thought it was something cool to keep going."

The company that owns the mine released a statement, saying: "We understand the historical and cultural significance the lighted cross on the old Climax mill building has to the Climax employees and local residents, particularly long-term residents. However, upon reflection of this historical practice, we determined that it is appropriate to instead display a secular symbol on our place of business, with the intent to reach all of our employees and those who pass by our property as a celebration of the holiday season."

Watch the full report in the video above.
de omnibus dubitandum
慶祝 聖?誕?

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