- (Photo: Evansville Garage Doors)
A United States district court judge has ruled against a group of churches that wanted to build a temporary cross display on some public waterfront property in Indiana.
Judge Sarah Evans Barker ruled Wednesday that the proposed display at Evansville would be a government endorsement of Christianity, thus violating the First Amendment.
"…based on the size and scope of the project, this planned display of crosses would convey a message of the City's endorsement of Christianity to the reasonable observer," wrote Barker.
Gavin M. Rose, ACLU of Indiana attorney, said in a statement released Wednesday that he was "extremely happy" with the decision.
"The City cannot dissociate itself from a religious display in the public right-of-way simply because it would be erected at the urging of a private party," said Rose.
In June, the city of Evansville granted permission to 10 churches to display about 30 artistically decorated crosses, each about six feet tall, at the public riverfront area.
The request was submitted by West Side Christian Church, with the crosses to be displayed for two weeks in August as part of a local charity fundraiser.
Days after the permit was granted by the city of Evansville, the Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit on behalf of two plaintiffs.
Rose of the ACLU said in a statement released on the day of the lawsuit being filed that the churches' proposed cross display violated the First Amendment.
"The First Amendment prohibits the government from endorsing a particular religious faith, or religion at all," said Rose.
"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."
In support of the churches, many Evansville area businesses offered to display the crosses should the ACLU lawsuit succeed in stopping the display from going onto the waterfront.
The churches were represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the proposed cross display.
Bryan Beauman, an ADF allied attorney involved in the case, told The Christian Post in an earlier interview that the churches have a right to have such a display on public property.
"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 Beauman.
"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."