Alsip, Illinois will break tradition by not erecting a cross next to the Tri-State Tollway this Christmas season due to a lawsuit threatened by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
The group planned to bring the lawsuit because of a complaint by a single resident. The town boasted a population of 19,277 people in their 2010 census. Instead of fighting for religious freedom, Mayor Pat Kitching caved under the first complaint he received since he became mayor in 2005.
“We work to keep religion out of government. We try to resolve things through education and legislation, not litigation,” said Freedom from Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Towns can’t put crosses on public structures such as water towers because we have separation between religion and government.”
Mayor Kitching claims he did this to avoid a major lawsuit, but residents are still outraged by his decision.
“This is kind of silly. I could understand this if it was derogatory like a swastika or a burning cross,” said resident Derrick Hughes. “This ticks me off. This is about taking more of our freedoms away. What happened to freedom of speech? My goodness.”
The tradition started in the 1970s. The town will put up a decorated tree in the cross’s place, but will not call it a Christmas tree to avoid any further problems. Yesterday, Santa Monica, CA officials ended a 60-year tradition by banning nativity displays in a public park in order to avoid a fight with atheist groups.
Photo credit: Justin Marty