ICC Note: The Freedom From Religion Foundation recently issued a letter of complaint to a mayor in Oregon regarding a cross on the side of the road. They argued that the cross, which was set up by the family of a woman who died in a car crash, is unconstitutional because it sits on public property and can be seen as a government endorsement of religion. At the time of writing, the city is reviewing the matter, but has not yet decided how to respond.
By Heather Clark
07/12/2017 United States (Christian News Network) – A prominent professing atheist organization is seeking the removal of roadside cross memorial in Oregon, which it states is an unconstitutional government endorsement of Christianity because it sits on public property.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently sent a letter to the mayor of Salem to advise that it had received a complaint about the cross off Kuebler Boulevard. It said at the time that it did not know the origin of the display.
“It is blatantly unconstitutional for the City of Salem to display a patently religious symbol like a Christian cross on a public roadside,” attorney Rebecca Markert wrote. “The cross … unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity.”
“It conveys the message to the 23% of Americans who are not religious that they are not ‘favored members of the political community,’” she continued. “The cross has an exclusionary effect, making non-Christian and non-believing residents of Oregon into political outsiders.”
FFRF requested that the cross be moved to private property instead.
This week, the mayor of Salem told reporters that the cross is actually a memorial to a mother who was killed in a car crash at the location, and had been placed by her children. The immediate area around the cross, which is covered in mulch, stones and flowers, is maintained by the family.
“We had a woman killed there in an accident 10 or 12 years ago,” Mayor Chuck Bennett told television station KATU. “Her children wanted to put up a memorial to her, did and have maintained it ever since.”