The Freedom From Religion Foundation is strongly protesting the presence of multiple crosses at a Texas courthouse.
A white Latin cross is on display outside the Orange County Courthouse next to the main entrance. In addition, there is a veterans' memorial on the grounds of the courthouse that features a large Latin cross and the phrase, "For God and Country."
FFRF has no objection to honoring veterans, but maintains the crosses send several troubling messages. They endorse religion over nonreligion. And they indicate that the government cares only about Christian veterans — and disdains the service or deaths of non-Christian and nonreligious veterans.
"The religious significance of the Christian cross is unambiguous and indisputable," FFRF Managing Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert writes in a letter to Orange County Commissioner Barry Burton. "A majority of federal courts have held displays of Latin crosses on public property to be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The display of this patently religious symbol on public property confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause."
Plus, the cross by the courthouse entrance conveys a signal to the nearly 30 percent of Americans who are not Christians (including the 23 percent who are not religious) that they are "not favored members of the political community," to quote the U.S. Supreme Court. The cross has an exclusionary effect, making non-Christian and nonbelieving residents of Orange County political outsiders.
"The city is visibly placing Christian veterans on a pedestal," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "The enormous sacrifices made by non-Christian veterans and servicemembers is being willfully disparaged."
FFRF requests that the crosses be moved from the Orange County Courthouse to a more appropriate private location.
FFRF's recent federal lawsuit against the city of Santa Clara, Calif., resulted in removal of a 14-foot Latin cross from a public park in January. FFRF is also suing over a 25-foot Christian cross in a public park in Pensacola, Fla., and over a cross and Christian symbols on the city seal in Lehigh County, Penn.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization that works to protect the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. It represents more than 27,000 nonreligious members across the country, including 1,200-plus in Texas. The organization is working on this issue both as a state/church watchdog group and on behalf of its more than 6,000 members who are in the military or are veterans.