Atheist Group Forces Calif. Mother to Remove Cross Honoring Dead Son

A Southern California mother has agreed to remove the roadside cross memorializing her dead son after receiving pressure from an atheist organization.

Ann Marie Devaney placed a white Christian cross near an on-ramp to Highway 15 inLake Elsinore, Calif., after her 19-year-old son Anthony was struck and killed by a car while crossing the street there in May 2012. After two years, Devaney has agreed to remove the cross after the American Humanist Association pressured the city of Lake Elsinore, reportedly on behalf of an atheist resident who argues the cross' presence on government-owned highway is unconstitutional.

As NBC Los Angeles reports, Devaney showed up to the site of the cross Thursday to pay her last respects to her son before removing the small memorial. The mother of the teen who struck Devaney's son with his car also showed up to grieve and express that she too did not think the cross should be removed.

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"It's so petty and sad that they have to complain over removing a cross," Devaney told the local media outlet. "It's his personal preference that he was Christian. What's wrong with having a cross up?"

The American Humanist Association previously sent a letter to the city of Lake Elsinore, claiming a local atheist was irked by the cross and alerted them of its presence. The city had originally removed the cross in December, only to replace it a few days later with a January 6 deadline for removal.

"A Latin cross is a Christian symbol, which has no place on government property," Monica Miller, attorney for the American Humanist Association's Appignani Humanist Legal Center, told CBS Los Angeles. "Past court cases have long recognized that religious symbols serving as memorials on government property are unconstitutional."

According to The Riverside Press-Enterprise, City Councilman Brian Tisdale says he thinks the national atheist group is being insensitive by requesting Devaney to remove the cross. "I think they're going a little bit overboard and being insensitive to other people's needs," Tisdale said. "This has nothing to do with city or government."

Tisdale previously headed the city's committee that planned to erect a veterans' memorial of a soldier kneeling next to a cross at the local minor league baseball stadium. The American Humanist Association challenged the veterans' memorial, and in February a U.S. district judge ruled the monument was unconstitutional and must be redesigned.

The city of Lake Elsinore has promised Devaney that her son will be honored with a memorial at McVicker Canyon Park later this month. The mother told the Press-Enterprise that she is working with city officials on creating a memorial for her lost loved one to "make sure my son is recognized for the value of his life."

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