A Wisconsin-based atheist organization has told city officials in Wyoming, Mich., that the city's logo is unconstitutional because a church and cross are depicted on it.
The logo reads "Wyoming Michigan" and "City of Vision and Progress," and has four different images on it: a house, a golf green, a factory and a church. At the top of the church's steeple is a cross, which the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) says is an unconstitutional government endorsement of Christianity.
"The City's inclusion of the church and cross, as it was intended, signals and endorsement of 'faith' and Christianity," FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick C. Elliott wrote in a letter that was sent to Wyoming Mayor Jack Poll last Friday.
Elliott added, "Any claims of historical or cultural significance to the church hand Latin cross on the City seal do not relieve the City of its constitutional obligations."
But Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the logo's historical significance does matter.
When a symbol like Wyoming's city logo is contested in court, he says, the court will take into consideration information like its historical significance, how long it has gone without being contested and, when possible, will even examine information from city council meetings when the logo was first created.
"Would a reasonable person believe that this is an attempt by this municipality to establish the religion of Christianity because there is a cross on it? Merely having a cross does not in and of itself establish the religion of Christianity," said Thompson.
Mlive.com reports that the city's logo has been in use since about 1959, when the city incorporated. Thompson says the logo has been around long enough that the courts would not likely force the city to change it if a lawsuit was filed.
"I think they would have a very strong case in defending it if there was ever a challenge made to it," he said.
Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt wasn't available to comment on Wednesday, but he told Mlive.com earlier this week that the city has "bigger fish to fry than this."
"It's not a front-burner issue for me," said Holt. "We've not had one citizen complaint about our logo."
According to the FFRF's letter, the atheist organization was contacted about the logo by "a concerned citizen who has necessary business in Wyoming." The organization is asking the city to stop using the logo and adopt a new, "inclusive" one.
The FFRF recently convinced officials in another city, Steubenville, Ohio, to change the city's logo. The Steubenville logo showed the silhouette of a cross atop Franciscan University's chapel, along with the silhouettes of other area landmarks. The city's law director contacted FFRF on Wednesday to let the organization know that they have agreed to the change.
View the City of Wyoming logo here.