A group of atheists is concerned about a small, white cross, which is part of a war veterans’ memorial statue inside a public park in Indiana. They claim the presence of the cross on public property violates the separation of church and state. Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a letter last month, complaining about the 14-inch cross that is part of the memorial, saying it should be removed at the earliest.
“No secular purpose, no matter how sincere, will detract from the overall message that the Latin cross stands for Christianity and the overall display promotes Christianity,” wrote Rebecca Markert, an attorney with FFRF.
The 14-inch cross is located at the bottom of an 8-foot structure that is comprised of a soldier, a bald eagle and Indiana’s state flag alongside a message that says, “All gave some, some gave all.”
The memorial was recently donated to the public park though no public funds were used to have it installed, which is why state officials are deliberating over whether the cross should be removed or be allowed to stay.
Debate over the memorial started this summer, when a local restaurateur and Army veteran, Wendell Bias, approached the Department of Natural Resources to complain about the cross, which according to him was not appropriate.
“I just thought that a memorial to veterans in a veterans’ park didn’t need to be turned into a religious shrine,” said Bias.
He posted on Facebook mid last month, saying he is saddened about causing such uproar but he should not be blamed since the memorial should have ideally not included the cross in the first place.
Dayle Lewis, the sculptor of the memorial, said that the cross was added to the structure in order to fill up some empty space and he did not think it would become such a religious debate. However, FFRF said it definitely concerns religious as well as non-religious people.
“The cross is the premier symbol of Christianity. It is more religious than the nativity and courts have treated it so. In California there was one very similar to this, with a soldier kneeling in prayer at a cross. The court struck it down,” said Markert.
According to FFRF’s statement, either the cross should be replaced with a secular icon or the entire structure should be moved to another location. Several veterans are rallying to save the cross, and a Facebook group called Keep the Cross on the Carving Whitewater Memorial State Park has managed to draw a noticeable number of supporters as well.
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