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Our view: Alsip cross fight too much to bear

Updated: December 28, 2012 6:20AM



For the first time in nearly 40 years, a large cross will not be atop an Alsip water tower this holiday season.

Under threat of a lawsuit by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, village officials reluctantly agreed to not place the 19-foot-tall cross on the tower near the Tri-State Tollway — citing the costs of fighting the suit, especially in a time of tight budgeting, and the likelihood that the village would not win. The village is replacing the cross with a holiday tree on the tower.

We think Mayor Patrick Kitching and village trustees made the right call on this controversial issue. U.S. courts, including the Supreme Court, consistently have upheld the constitutional principle of “separation of church and state” — ruling that the intent of the First Amendment was to prevent any government endorsement of a religion.

But the Supreme Court has been divided in the various cases that have come before it, resulting in continued debate over the issue, especially the degree to which the principle should be applied.

The Madison, Wis.-based group sent a letter to Kitching five days before Christmas last year, requesting that the cross be taken down, but Kitching ignored it. The group sent another letter this month with the same request, saying it would sue if the village denied it.

The foundation lawyer contends that the Alsip cross “demonstrates the village’s preference of Christianity over all other faiths and impermissibly advances religion over nonreligion. Such a government endorsement of Christianity is unconstitutional.”

He’s right, whether the village meant to send that message or not. While we understand that many Christians would support the display of the cross, its presence on village property reflects at least implicit support for Christianity.

A Catholic or Protestant might see the cross and not give it a second thought, but a Jew or Muslim or atheist might find it objectionable. There’s plenty of opportunity to display religious symbols on private property. It’s not necessary to do so on public land.



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