UPDATE: The cross has been removed. Read our new story.
The so-called “War on Christmas” has seemingly been a much quieter affair this holiday season, with fewer public spats over nativities and Christmas symbols making headlines.
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That said, a new legal battle in Knightstown, Indiana, is breaking through the quiet and sparking quite a bit of attention after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the town over its local Christmas tree.
The problem? There’s a Christian cross on top of the spruce, leading the civil rights group to file a complaint on behalf of local resident Joseph Tompkins, who opposes its presence, according to WXIN-TV.
In response, people across Knightstown are reportedly placing crosses in their front yard in an effort to push back.
In the recently filed complaint, the town cross is described as the “preeminent symbol of Christianity, representing the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus,” with the ACLU saying the symbol has no place on public property.
Tompkins, thus, alleges he’s forced into “direct and unwelcome contact” with the cross every day, saying it has caused him “irreparable harm.” He’s arguing that his tax dollars shouldn’t be used to light a tree with a cross on it and is urging for its removal as well as for resulting damages, WXIN-TV reported.
And that’s not all. He and the ACLU also reportedly want a declaration from the town proclaiming that the presence of the cross on the tree signifies a violation of the First Amendment.
But many residents who spoke out to media offered overt support for the cross. One such resident suggested the town simply give Tomkins back his tax money; another said he’d park his car nearby with three cross on it if the Christmas tree is changed to accommodate the ACLU’s demands.
“He can take it down and I tell you what, I’ll park this car here until Christmas Day with three crosses on it,” Mark Tompkins, a man identified as of the complainant’s relatives, told the outlet.
Others are apparently erecting their own crosses and placing them on their front lawns in solidarity with the traditional tree topper currently under fire.
“I am from this town and this is absolutely ridiculous. He is only suing our town so he can get money,” a woman named Debbie Wilkerson wrote on the WXIN-TV Facebook page. ” The cross has been there for years and nobody has ever complained until now and it’s only him.”
She continued, “People all over town are putting crosses in their yards.”
It’s unclear how officials in Knightstown will respond.
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