It was a small cross, but it has created a big debate in San Antonio.
The “Torre de Esperanza,” or Tower of Hope, stands close to the entrance of Texas A&M University-San Antonio. The tower’s private owners put a small cross on the structure consistent with its Spanish mission-style design. They also allowed the school to put its seal on the structure. The cross, however, was recently removed.
The ACLU of Texas said the developer of the tower, Ralph Lampman of the VTLM Group, ordered the crosses removed after a TAMU-SA faculty member complained about the religious symbol. Criminology professor Sissy Bradford questioned the placement as a First Amendment violation.
Associate Vice President for University Communications Marilu Reyna told The Christian Post that she and university President Maria Hernandez Ferrier will speak with the owners of the property to see why the cross was removed. Reyna says the tower “doesn’t belong to the university. It’s on private property.” The Verano Land Group authorized the VTML group to build the tower on their property.
Reyna also told The Christian Post that the university had no say as to whether the cross was removed, but there have been misconceptions over the university’s ownership of the tower because its seal is on it.
Originally, the builders of the tower asked if the San Antonio campus wanted to display their seal on the structure. The initial designs shown to university officials did not contain the image of the small cross, so the university was not aware of it until it was built.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas became involved when they filed public information requests. They want clarification from the City of San Antonio and Texas A&M as to who paid for, designed, and owns the tower the land it sits on.
“The Christian symbol of a cross positioned near the TAMU-SA seal on a building that is the gateway to a public university raises First Amendment concerns,” said Public Policy and Advocacy Director with the ACLU of Texas, Rebecca Robertson, in a statement. “We are seeking full disclosure about the construction and funding of this structure so we can better understand the circumstances,” she said.
Public Education Director for ACLU of Texas Dottie Griffith told CP that the organization is interested in finding out whether public money was used “to favor one religion over others. We believe it’s an overreach for the government to favor one religion over another.”
A day after the ACLU filing, Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent letters to the city and university officials asking for the removal of the cross. The letter says that the cross gives the appearance of government endorsement of Christianity, which is in violation of the Constitution.
The public records request was filed Friday, and the City of San Antonio and TAMU-SA have 10 business days to provide the ACLU with the requested documents.