FFRF protests Penn. funding of crosses on Villanova campus

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is protesting the state of Pennsylvania's unconstitutional funding of Christian symbols on a Catholic campus.

A number of local taxpayers have contacted FFRF to report that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has contributed taxpayer funds toward construction of an overtly Christian bridge on the campus of Villanova University. The pedestrian bridge will reportedly include four large, metal Latin crosses atop stone pillars.

The religious significance of the Latin cross is unambiguous and indisputable, FFRF points out. The location of the proposed crosses on the campus of a Catholic university only makes the religious nature of the crosses more clear.

"It is illegal for the Department of Transportation to use public funds to construct permanent Latin crosses, even if part of a larger secular project," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne writes to Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards. "The Establishment Clause strictly prohibits the government from advancing religion. The Supreme Court has struck down grants to religious schools, even when the funds will not be used to advance religion directly. Providing the funding to erect prominent Christian symbols directly advances Villanova's religious mission."

Furthermore, the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits the government from using taxpayer funds to advance religion, or from giving preference to any religion, FFRF adds. Erecting prominent Latin crosses atop stone pillars on a bridge serves no purpose other than to advance Christianity. Pennsylvania taxpayers have a right not to be compelled to fund such a project. To FFRF's knowledge, the state Department of Transportation has never used taxpayer funds to construct permanent religious symbols representing Islam, Hinduism, Satanism, or any other minority faith, nor should it.

"There is a disturbing indulgence toward Catholicism taking place based on the fact that the bridge is located on a Catholic campus," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "But non-Catholic taxpayers may not be forced to subsidize such a bridge. We are not a Christian nation; we live under a secular Constitution."

FFRF is asking the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to reconsider the misguided funding decision and take immediate action either to remove the crosses from the proposed bridge or withdraw the department's offer to fund the project.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 27,000 members nationwide and chapters all over the country, including 800-plus in Pennsylvania and two chapters in the state, Nittany Freethought and Central Pennsylvania Rationalists. FFRF's purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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