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Franklin Graham Blasts Effort to Remove Cross in Small Town

Image: Franklin Graham Blasts Effort to Remove Cross in Small Town

By    |   Saturday, 10 Oct 2015 04:05 PM

The Rev. Franklin Graham Saturday slammed the Freedom From Religion Foundation for "trying to intimidate" a small central Kentucky city into removing a cross that has stood atop its water tower for decades.

The foundation, based in Madison, Wis., "is at it again," Graham said on Facebook. "Reaching in from another state, they're trying to intimidate the city of Wilmore, Ky., into taking down a cross that has stood on top of their water tower for years."

Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, is president and CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, N.C. Settled by Revolutionary War soldiers in 1770, Wilmore is about 20 miles southwest of Lexington.

The water tower sits on the campus of Asbury University, a private Christian college that mounted the cross on its top years before transferring the tower to the city in October 1976, The Central Kentucky News reports.

The transfer required that the cross remain on the tower, Mayor Harold Rainwater told the News. The university pays all electricity and maintenance costs, he said.

The controversy began on Sept. 29 when Rainwater received an email letter from foundation attorney Rebecca Markert, She warned that "it is unlawful for Wilmore to display a patently religious symbol such as a Christian cross on public property," according to the News.

"The Wilmore cross, displayed on the city water tower, unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity," Markert wrote. "It conveys the message to the nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population who are not Christians that they are not 'favored members of the political community.'"

Markert also cited a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that a nativity-scene display on government property had violated the First Amendment, the News reports.

That Asbury is a private Christian college "is irrelevant," the attorney said. The university was established in 1890 and is named after Bishop Francis Asbury, the nation's first Methodist bishop.

"Any reasonable observer would understand the city to endorse any messages on the water tower because the water tower has 'WILMORE' printed on it in large letters, and because the tower is displayed on the city's website to represent the city's water and sewage services."

Rainwater, who is also an Asbury associate professor, said that he strongly opposed removing the cross.

"There’s a groundswell of support to keep (the cross) and I’m certainly going to fight to keep it with everything I’ve got," he told the News. "I think it’s symbolic of our town.

"I 100-percent support keeping it there," he added. "We won’t take it down unless we’re forced to take it down."

He said the city is prepared for any legal challenge.

“I want to do what’s right and I want to do what’s legal as a mayor and I want to represent my people," Rainwater told the News. "They may make us pay money to take it down, but I believe the university will actually raise it up higher.

"They don’t want to do that and it’s silly to have to do that, but that’s where we’re at."

In his Facebook post, Graham praised Rainwater and city residents for "standing their ground."

"Way to go Mayor Rainwater!" he said. "These anti-god activists are trying to get their way against the will of the people.

"Let's pray that they get nowhere!"

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The Rev. Franklin Graham Saturday slammed the Freedom From Religion Foundation for trying to intimidate a small central Kentucky city into removing a cross that has stood atop its water tower for decades. The foundation, based in Madison, Wis., is at it again, Graham...
franklin, graham, cross, water, tower
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2015-05-10
Saturday, 10 Oct 2015 04:05 PM
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