California Town Fights Back Against Atheists

Wednesday, 12 Mar 2014 09:25 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The southern California resort town of Lake Elsinore has been in court defending the placement of religious symbols on public property, Religion News Service reported.

One case involves religious symbols engraved in a war memorial waiting to be placed at a minor-league baseball stadium. A second involves a five-foot cross placed as a roadside memorial for a 19-year-old who was killed by a car in 2012.

After a letter of complaint from an atheist group, the city removed the roadside memorial then returned it when the teen's family complained.

As a result, the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit and won. The court ordered AnnMarie and Chad Devaney to remove their roadside memorial cross, erected in memory of their son, Anthony, who had been struck by a car nearby.

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David Niose, legal director of the Humanist Legal Center, said the display violated the Constitution's requirement for the separation of religion and state. "A temporary memorial placed by a loved one immediately after a fatal accident could be understandable, but that's not what this was."

The Devaney couple complied and took down the cross, but local residents Doug and Emily Johnson were so upset that they placed a cluster of smaller crosses at the same roadside spot in protest.

They marked them with handwritten messages aimed at the atheists: "What if this was your child?", "To each his own," and "Get a life," RNS reported.

Johnson told The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, "They said they have to take that one down, but they didn't say anything about putting another one up."

In the stadium case, a federal judge ruled that Lake Elsinore was not allowed to place the veterans memorial on the stadium grounds because it displayed crosses and Stars of David, the Press-Enterprise reported.

The California cases are part of a series initiated by anti-religious groups against placing symbols of faith on public property. The placement of faith symbols has also been challenged at the World Trade Center and at a memorial for World War I veterans in Prince George's County, Md., according to David French, senior counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which has been battling the atheists in court.

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