The family of a woman who died in a car crash at least a decade ago in Salem, Oregon, has decided to voluntarily take down a cross that was placed on the side of the road to commemorate her life.
The move comes after an atheist activist group’s demands that the cross be taken down based on the claim that it was an “unconstitutional endorsement of religion.”
A spokesperson for the city of Salem told KATU-TV that the family made the decision, because it didn’t want the mom’s memorial “to become a point of contention in the community.” The family also offered gratitude to those who supported them, but declined to speak publicly on the matter.
“They ask the media respect their privacy and have no further comment,” spokesman Kenny Larson added.
As Faithwire previously reported, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, said that the cross’ presence on public land next to the road was unconstitutional, sending a letter demanding it be taken down.
It was reportedly the first time that the cross, which is about four feet tall and has reportedly been near a local road for more than a decade, had received any complaints, KATU-TV reported.
“We had a woman killed there in an accident 10 or 12 years ago,” Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett previously told the outlet. “Her children wanted to put up a memorial to her, did and have maintained it ever since.”
But while the cross offered solace to the family, Cheryl Kolbe, Portland chapter president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, argued that its presence on public land conveyed a message of support for the Christian faith.
“This is not the same as a very recent car accident where somebody put some flowers or whatever or even a cross on the side of the road a week or two,” she told KATU. “The cross dramatically conveys a message of governmental support for Christianity whatever the intention of the display may be.”
Since the family voluntary removed the cross, it is unclear how the city would have proceeded. Bennett previously said that he didn’t view the cross as an endorsement of the Christian faith and that it was, instead, “an endorsement of a family’s love for their mother and their sadness at her loss and their desire to commemorate her memory.”
Rebecca Markert, an attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said that the organization is “pleased” to hear that the cross has been taken down.
“FFRF is pleased to hear that the cross has been removed,” she told KATU. “While our hearts go out to the grieving family, we thank them for understanding the problem religious imagery creates on public property.”