OZARK, Mo. – One Missouri town planned to turn off the lights on a cross featured in a Christmas display in a park. The city of Ozark was contacted by the legal department of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They were going to honor their request to take down the religious symbol. Then the story went viral.
“We released a press release earlier with the facts as they have been presented to us thus far. As the day unfolded and citizens commented on this topic, we have determined that in the best interest of all parties we shall continue working through the legalities of the situation. Therefore, the cross in the Finley River Park will remain in place until a further due diligence can be completed regarding this matter.” – Writes the city of Ozark, Missouri on Facebook.
KY3-TV reports that the cross is a permanent feature of Finley River Park. There is a drive-thru light display that surrounds it during the holidays.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation is a group based in Wisconsin. They have asked other other local governments across the United States to remove other religious symbols too. The group pushes the separation of church and state.
The city of Ozark, Missouri originally posted this statement to Facebook about the incident:
“The City of Ozark recently received a letter requesting the removal of the cross from the Finley River Park. The complaint did not come to the City from an individual, but rather was a complaint from the legal department of the national organization (FFRF) the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
While we respect the interests of those who have long enjoyed the holiday display in Finley River Park, we must acknowledge the Federal Constitution and its interpretation by the U.S. Supreme Court. This letter has brought a concern to our attention and we cannot ignore the First Amendment which protects freedom of speech, protects freedom of the press, protects the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and prohibits the government from making laws or taking actions that may promote or prohibit one religion over another.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the government from making any law respecting establishment of religion. The United States Supreme Court has interpreted this clause, generally known as the Establishment Clause, to prohibit items such as the cross from being displayed by the government on government property.
It is the position of the City of Ozark that leaving a religious symbol on public property, in this case a cross, will result in a law suit that we will not win as the other communities throughout the U.S. and our own region have tried this and lost.”
The Freedom from Religion Foundation recently was successful in removing a nativity scene and a Ten Commandments monument in Dover, Ohio: