Complaints from what has been described as a “vocal minority” prompted local government officials in a Georgia town to temporarily remove a Memorial Day display from public property that featured handmade crosses honoring service members killed in America’s wars.
Initially, it appeared the Memorial Day exhibition was removed after only one complaint by an unnamed resident who reportedly “questioned whether the soldiers were all Christian” and “whether the cross is an appropriate symbol for the memorial.”
The local Channel 2 station now reports that “a few complained the crosses — on a piece of city property at a busy intersection — formed an inappropriate religious display,” adding, “It was — most say — just a vocal minority that were complaining.”
“Just a handful always there, always the ones talking loudest, I guess. It’s time we all start standing together, taking a stand and stand up for what is right,” resident Eugene McCallie told WSB-TV.
Unanimously voting on Tuesday night to put the crosses back up, Hiram’s City Council sided with residents and Mayor Teresa Philyaw who believe the cross display was more of a “rest in peace symbol,” rather than a religious one.
“The sun had barely risen following a City Council meeting the night before when dozens from Hiram and Paulding Counties assembled to re-assemble the Memorial Day display,” reports WSB-TV, adding, “The folks here are happy it is back up before the Memorial Day weekend because most want it here.”
None of the families linked to the service members being honored actually called to complain about the display, Hiram Mayor Teresa Philyaw, who planned and approved the exhibition, told Fox News.
Citing town officials, Fox News explains, “The 79 white, handmade crosses posted on public property along state Highway 92 in Hiram, Ga., were meant to represent the 79 Paulding County residents who died in America’s wars” from World War I to Afghanistan.
City Manager Barry Atkinson, who received a call from one of the complainants, indicated he approved of the decision to take down the crosses, reports WSB-TV.
The phone call “opened our eyes that we missed something here,” he told the station, adding, “We immediately took corrective action.”
Mayor Philyaw and city manager Atkinson did not respond to Breitbart News’s requests for comment.
Ken Klukowski, legal editor at Breitbart News, declared it would have been a mistake to permanently remove the cross display.
“I’m glad the town of Hiram came to realize that removing these memorial crosses would not be ‘corrective action,’ and instead would be wrong,” said Klukowski, senior counsel and director of strategic affairs at the First Liberty Institute law firm, which is dedicated to protecting religious freedom in America.
“Thousands of crosses adorn Arlington National Cemetery,” he added. “It’s encouraging that the town’s leaders are not making common cause with those who are willing to sandblast our nation’s premiere military cemetery.”
On Tuesday, Hiram Mayor Philyaw told Fox News she was “devastated” when the cross display was removed, adding that it was never intended to be “about religion.”
“It was just to honor them,” she added.
“We wanted to make sure that they weren’t forgotten. We also wanted their families to know that our hearts still bleed for them. At the time, it never, ever crossed my mind about the religious factor in it,” continued the mayor, adding, “The cross is a ‘rest in peace’ symbol to me.”
In Hiram, with a population of 2,332, not everyone shared Philyaw’s sentiment, including the city manager.
“If there is one of those 79 that they know to be of a different religious belief, we will gladly put up,” noted Philyaw.
The Memorial Day display “ignited fierce debate on social media — with many people saying its removal is political correctness run amok, while others argued all faiths should be represented,” reports Fox News.