After months of complaints, the small Tennessee town of Whiteville will finally remove a cross placed atop its public water tower, but the town’s mayor isn’t happy about it. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation’s largest association of atheists and agnostics, asked the town to take down the cross on behalf of a resident who was offended by its presence on public property, citing the Constitution’s Establishment Clause separating church and state.
The foundation sent four letters beginning almost a year ago asking for the cross to be taken down, but Whiteville Mayor James Bellar said, “I took it upon myself just to ignore them.” But even he admits the town would most likely lose in court, based on similar past rulings, so he’s relenting to head off a lawsuit.
Still, he’s not pleased. “Whiteville is a religious town,” Bellar told WREG. “I just think it’s a sad day when people in a small rural Western Tennessee town like Whiteville have to be the object of attention for non-believers.” “They’re the terrorists,” Bellar said to the Jackson Sun. “It’s not us.” Watch a report from WREG in Memphis:
“I’d just tell this one person that’s got a problem with it, that they just need to go ahead and pack and move. If anybody else has got a problem with the cross, they just need to pack and move also,” a resident told WREG. The mayor plans to move the cross to private property on the highway, “where it will be more visible than ever and no one can make them move it.”
The foundation has also recently complained about a nearby school district reading prayers over the loudspeakers at football games and has fought the distribution of of bibles on public school grounds.