(Photo: Courtesy ADF)
A federal appeals court has scheduled arguments on an appeal from a group of churches hoping to erect a temporary cross display on public property in Indiana.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided to hear arguments on an appeal regarding churches, including West Side Christian Church of Evansville, which wanted to create a display with multiple crosses on property in Evansville.
Arguments will be heard on Tuesday, Feb. 18 before the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.
"Our desire is for the believing church to be able to express our faith in a public forum," said Roger Lehman, member of West Side Christian, to The Christian Post. "We praise God that the Circuit Court has elected to hear oral arguments in this matter! Some of us who are able, not just from West Side Christian, but from our partner churches, plan on attending the hearing to show our support."
Last June, the city government of Evansville gave permission to a group of ten churches to display about 30 artistically decorated crosses at the public riverfront area.
West Side Christian submitted the request, which allowed for the roughly six-foot tall crosses to go on display for two weeks at the riverfront in August as part of a charity fundraiser. Not long after the permit was granted, the Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit, arguing that the proposed display was unconstitutional.
"While the church can certainly display emblems of its faith on its own property, the city of Evansville may not allow it to do so in the public right-of-way," stated Gavin M. Rose, ACLU of Indiana attorney.
To help with the legal dispute, last July the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a motion to intervene on behalf of West Side Christian and the other churches.
"Christians have the same First Amendment rights as anyone else in America and the government cannot treat people with non-religious viewpoints more favorably than people with religious viewpoints," said Bryan Beauman, an ADF allied attorney, in an earlier interview with The Christian Post.
In late July, US District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker ruled against the display, reasoning that the proposed display would be an unlawful government endorsement of Christianity. That August, the ADF filed an appeal against the Barker decision.
"Government officials should not be allowed to unconstitutionally single out faith-based groups for censorship," said Beauman in a statement last August.
"A public display, approved in the same way as other types of displays, cannot be singled out for censorship simply because it is in the shape of a cross."
Kelly Sharp, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Indiana, told The Christian Post that "there can be no doubt" the proposed crosses display "violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."
"This appeal should be dismissed, or the district court's judgment should be affirmed on the merits," said Sharp.