NJ Citizen Banned from Displaying Religious Cross

In the U.S., a citizen has a right to express his or her religion so long as it does not interfere with others. What happens, though, when other laws indirectly prohibit a citizen from peacefully displaying his or her beliefs? In April, Patrick Racaniello experienced just that.

The Alliance Defense Fund sent a letter to Livingston, New Jersey officials and urged them to stop using ordinance laws to prohibit Racaniello from displaying the Christian cross in his yard.

Racaniello wanted to celebrate Lent by placing a 31-by-19 inch wooden cross on a tree in his front yard. When this angered one of his neighbors, who began screaming at him and his family from across the street, Racaniello called the police. However, the police told him to take down the cross because it was within 8 feet from the curb. Racaniello complied and then built a 6-by-4 foot cross and placed it within 9 feet from the curb.

Again, he was told this violated ordinance laws and must be taken down. The township requires a 10-foot-right-of-way into his yard.

Racaniello, not wanting to be denied his right to express his religion, would like to put up another cross on a tree in his backyard. However, he is reluctant to do so out of fear of another ordinance violation. Officials are now prohibiting him from displaying a cross on any tree on his own property.

The ADF letter states, “Livingston cannot completely ban such a unique mode of expression on private property…. But there is a second problem with Livingston’s actions: Livingston is applying its ordinance in a vague way to prohibit Racaniello’s cross .. The express language in Ordinance 178-11 simply does not prohibit what Racaniello wants to do.”

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