Humanists try to remove popular Fla. cross, but will it stand?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Chris Woodward (

Pensacola crossArguments continue both for and against a giant cross in Pensacola, Florida.

The American Humanist Association's (AHA) Appignani Humanist Legal Center is asking the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to uphold the Florida district court's decision that the 30-foot Christian cross being displayed in a city park – and maintained by taxpayer money – violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The AHA – in conjunction with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FRFF) – filed a lawsuit in 2015 on behalf of Pensacola residents who felt the large cross, which is located in a city park and maintained by the city government, "represented a troubling elevation of the Christian faith, above other beliefs." Both anti-Christian groups filed their brief with the appellate court last week.

On the other side of the issue is Becket Law attorney Joe Davis, who maintains that the arguments against the cross are too broad.

"They effectively say that crosses are unconstitutional under the First Amendment – no matter what," the legal expert explained to OneNewsNow. "There is an Establishment Clause test, [and] in recent years, the Supreme Court has said that that test is focused very much on the history of the Establishment Clause, and under that kind of test – as we explained in our opening brief – the cross here is constitutional.”

First erected in 1941, the cross has been included in Memorial Day and Veterans Day celebrations, and it was the site of a community-wide memorial service after the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"This cross has very much become a part of the fabric of Pensacola – for reasons religious and non-religious – and the point of this lawsuit is to erase that part of Pensacola's history," Davis insisted. "We will be replying to AHA's brief in mid-December. At that point, we'll have argument before the 11th Circuit, and then the 11th Circuit will decide the case."

However, Appignani Humanist Legal Center Senior Counsel Monica Miller claims that the presence of the cross on public property is unconstitutional, and she tries to use other court decisions to make a general argument.

"This appeal involves the straightforward issue of whether a city's massive, freestanding Christian cross – prominently displayed on city property – violates the Establishment Clause," Miller maintained. "The Eleventh Circuit has already ruled that a cross displayed in a government park violates the Establishment Clause, and the other federal courts have been virtually unanimous in finding crosses unconstitutional – irrespective of how old they are – whether they are accompanied by other symbols or secular monuments … or have independent historical or practical significance."

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