An Indiana town has decided to remove a cross from atop a local Christmas tree after the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of a resident who reportedly claimed the symbol caused him “irreparable harm.”
The Knightstown Town Council announced its decision in a Facebook post Monday, with the cross — which had been on display since many local residents remember — coming down in the afternoon, according to the IndyStar.
“It is with regret and sadness that the Knightstown Town Council has had the cross removed from the Christmas tree on the town square and is expected to approve a resolution at the next council meeting stating they will not return the cross to the tree,” the council’s statement read.
Officials decided not to fight the ACLU, saying they feared the high financial cost of taking the issue to the courts.
As Faithwire previously reported, the lawsuit against the cross was brought by a local man named Joseph Tompkins, who, via the ACLU complaint, described the cross atop the tree as the “preeminent symbol of Christianity, representing the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus.”
Tompkins, thus, alleged he was forced into “direct and unwelcome contact” with the cross every day, saying it’s presence on public property caused him “irreparable harm.”
He and the ACLU argued that tax dollars shouldn’t be used to light a tree with a cross on it — something the complaint alleged was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution — and urged for its removal as well as for resulting damages, WXIN-TV reported.
The battle had been heating up in recent days, with frustrated residents speaking out to media. Many locals responded by placing crosses on their front lawns and in store windows in solidarity with the long-held cross tradition. According to WXIN-TV, some even attempted to block a truck from removing the cross on Monday, leading cops to get involved.
In the end, though, these protestors lost their battle to keep the symbol in place.
“There was nothing we could do about it,” Aaron Magee, a resident who wanted to keep the cross, told the outlet. “The police didn’t want to take it down, the town workers didn’t want to take it down. They still took it down.”
But while some have expressed frustration, the ACLU said that the cross removal left the civil rights group “very happy.”
“He (Tompkins) just feels very strongly about the Establishment Clause, and people tend to think this is an attack on religion,” Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, told the IndyStar. “All this is, is an effort to show the government does not have an establishment of religion.”
You can see an array of responses from locals on the Knightstown News and Events page below:
Residents said they plan to show up at Thursday night’s Knightstown Town Council to make their voices heard on the matter; officials are expected to pass a resolution saying the cross will no longer be placed atop the tree.
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