Residents, politicians and activists are reacting after a judge mandated that a cross be removed from a public park in Pensacola, Florida, within the next 30 days.
The decision to remove the 34-foot cross inside Bayview Park came after Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled that its presence on public property is unconstitutional, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
“The Bayview Cross can no longer stand as a permanent fixture on city-owned property,” the judge proclaimed, noting that he was well aware of the broad local support for keeping the cross in place. “The law is the law.”
Our victory in Pensacola ruffled some feathers over at Fox. https://t.co/AK412Efx9R
— FFRF (@FFRF) June 19, 2017
The battle started after atheist groups sued in 2016 to seek the removal of the cross, which has stood in some form at the site for the past 75 years. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Society decided to team up when it became evident that government officials wouldn’t bow to activists’ removal demands.
The decision came down to the three-part legal precedent known as the “lemon test,” which states that a religious display must have a secular purpose, can’t advance religion and can’t “excessively entangle” the government with faith, the Journal noted.
The FFRF called the impending removal a “big legal victory” and said in a press release that the legal battle was waged on behalf of “residents of Pensacola who objected to the cross on public property.”
Why is the cross an offense to atheists? Cause it says 'your a sinner' & 'repent of your sins of immorality' https://t.co/lVG6p4tOTg
— Ken Ham (@aigkenham) June 20, 2017
But the FFRF also noted that Vinson was reluctant in his decision, claiming that judge disagreed with past Supreme Court rulings on the First Amendment and made some other proclamations that the atheist group said were “erroneous.”
“The historical record indicates that the Founding Fathers did not intend for the Establishment Clause to ban crosses and religious symbols from public property,” Vinson lectured.
At another point, TheBlaze reported that Vinson, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, said he’d like to see the high court revisit some of these First Amendment decisions.
“Count me among those who hope the Supreme Court will one day revisit and reconsider its Establishment Clause jurisprudence, but my duty is to enforce the law as it now stands,” the judge said.
I hope Pensacola will appeal after Bayview Park cross ruled unconstitutional & ordered removed in 30 days https://t.co/qPzj4l0Zw3
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 20, 2017
But while atheists were elated, others took a different stand. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took to Twitter on Tuesday to say that he hopes Pensacola appeals the ruling. It is unclear if the city will do so.