By Todd Starnes
It was way back in 1930 when the good people of Neosho, Missouri installed a giant, lighted cross in the Big Spring Park.
The cross, about 60-feet long, was the centerpiece of the town’s annual Easter sunrise services. And while the sunrise services ended many years ago, the cross remained.
For the past 87 years, not a single person in the community complained about the emblem – until last May.
That’s when the town received a letter from an out-of-town group of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers. They demanded the cross be removed from public property.
“The government’s permanent display of a Latin cross on public land is unconstitutional,” Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Rebecca Markert wrote in a letter to the town’s mayor.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is not very fond of our Lord Jesus Christ – or anything remotely related to Christianity.
“The display of this patently religious symbol on public property confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause,” she wrote. “The cross has an exclusionary effect, making non-Christian and non-believing residents of Neosho political outsiders.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has a notorious reputation for bullying small towns and communities. And most of those towns surrender because they don’t have the money to fight potential lawsuits.
But it just so happens that the out-of-town atheists picked the wrong folks to mess with.
“The cross is not going to go anywhere,” Mayor Ben Baker told me. “We are taking a stand. It’s the best thing to do and it’s the right thing to do.”
And the city council agrees with the mayor – voting unanimously to protect the cross.
“It is the unanimous opinion of the city council that the City of Neosho will not remove the cross or take any other actions which in any way compromises the long standing history of our city,” the city council said in a statement.
“It’s frustrating to us because you have an outside organization that makes these demands and stirs things up and they have no connection to the town,” Mayor Baker told me. “I haven’t had a single person from our community that has formally filed a complaint about the cross.”
As a matter of fact, the mayor said he’s been bombarded with telephone calls and messages and emails from residents offering to help fight the out-of-town atheists.
“The Freedom From Religion Foundation claims the cross is offensive and it endorses Christianity,” the mayor told me. “We say it’s been there since 1930 and it’s a historical part of our town and our heritage.”
I suspect the city council’s decision triggered microaggressions among atheists across the fruited plain. Put ‘em on your church prayer list, folks.