The village of Stratton, Ohio was recently forced by an atheist group to take down crosses on village property that have been there for years.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a church-state separatist organization based in Madison, Wi, first wrote letters to local leaders last year telling them that a lawsuit would result if the crosses remained on government property, The Herald-Star reported.
Village Mayor John Abdalla says he still doesn’t understand why someone would complain about crosses that have graced the Village Municipal Building for decades.
Abdalla said he had no recourse but to remove the crosses after discussing the matter with the village solicitor. But he said he still doesn’t appreciate it.
“I don’t like it – not one bit,” said the mayor. “Worse, I can’t find out who is (behind this). This is very upsetting. Those crosses have been there for years. The (Freedom From Religion Foundation) even sent pictures of the crosses.”
Abdalla said the letters from the foundation began coming last year, complaining about the crosses and other religious symbols on village property.
“I refused to remove them at first,” he said, adding he was advised by counsel to take down the crosses. “I have them for safekeeping. (The foundation) even raised hell about the manger scene at the front of the building.”
Abdalla said he doesn’t believe the initial complaint came from the foundation, because “they wouldn’t send someone down here from Wisconsin to take pictures. This was from someone local.”
Abdalla said in the decades the crosses have been there no one had complained.
“People would compliment us on the crosses,” he said, adding they were large and prominent. “People would stop and take pictures of them.”
Until local governments that wish to continue the Christian tradition they were founded on are able to find a legal path to keep symbols of their faith on public land, private property may be the only option.
WTOV-TV reported that the crosses may soon be given to local land owners, which will likely make them more prominently displayed than ever on private property in the village.
“Last night at the regular council meeting at the council of the village of Stratton, council unanimously resolved to give the crosses that were taken off the building,” Stratton Village Solicitor Frank Bruzzese said.
“That result will be that [the crosses] will be on display actually more visible to the public than they used to be,” said village solicitor Frank Bruzzese.