City To Appeal Federal Court Order To Remove Giant Cross

July 1, 2017

The mayor and City of Pensacola will ask a federal court to protect a cross memorial that has stood in a city park for over 75 years.

Last week, the ordered the cross at the city’s Bayview Park to be removed by July 19 because it is a religious symbol. The case presents important questions of the relationship between church and state, and the city has retained Becket, a nationally recognized non-profit religious liberty law firm, to handle the appeal for the city free of charge.

A wooden cross was first placed in Pensacola’s Bayview Park in 1941 by the local chapter of the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees)—a private, civic, nonprofit organization—as the United States prepared to enter World War II. Since then, the cross has served as a gathering place for both religious and nonreligious groups within the Pensacola community. The original wooden cross was replaced with the current cross by the Jaycees in 1969. For decades, the Jaycees and other groups have hosted community events at the memorial, including Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day remembrances. Today it remains a significant part of the city’s history.

“The Bayview Cross has played an important role in the history of Pensacola for over 75 years,” said Ashton Hayward, mayor of Pensacola. “We have a rich and diverse history that is worth celebrating. The Constitution doesn’t require us to erase our history just because part of that history is religious.”

Bayview Park consists of 28 acres overlooking the scenic Bayou Texar. In addition to a cross in the northeast corner of the park, there is a senior center, amphitheater, two dog parks, tennis courts, a bocce ball court, playground, multiple boat ramps and docks, and a memorial to a local citizen who died in a waterskiing accident.

In May of 2016, four plaintiffs sued the city saying that the cross was offensive. Two of the plaintiffs live in Canada. One has used the cross himself for his own self-described “satanic purposes.” The fourth plaintiff lives outside Pensacola over seven miles from the cross but still says that seeing the cross would be offensive. Although a federal court recognized that the cross “is part of the rich history of Pensacola,” and that the cross “might well pass constitutional muster,” it ruled that the cross has a “religious purpose” and must be removed.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that the government can recognize the religious aspects of our history and culture without violating the Constitution,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at Becket, which is defending the City of Pensacola. “We expect the city will win this case.”

Becket, which is representing the city free of charge, also successfully defended a statue of Jesus in Montana memorializing soldiers who died during World War II. Today the city is filing a motion asking the court to allow the cross to remain in place while the City appeals. The city is represented in the trial court by J. Nixon Daniel, III, and Terrie L. Didier of Beggs & Lane. A ruling on the motion is expected before July 19.

Comments

27 Responses to “City To Appeal Federal Court Order To Remove Giant Cross”

  1. david lamb on July 3rd, 2017 11:39 pm

    I think that if you look closely Gods creation was an exact science with everything in place in an exact order and with a purpose. Mans science is the one with theory and assumption.
    Violent acts with random murder and attacks don’t appear to be on the incline AND it is obvious that moralit is on the decline .Also my niece was recently murdered in Molino! A Godless society is showing its Godlessness!

  2. Dan on July 3rd, 2017 7:27 pm

    Calling someone else stupid while simultaneously admitting to not understand how science works… hmm

    “Removing God from schools and govt is why murder and crime is so prevalent”…

    FBI statistics show, in fact, that the 2015 murder rate was among the lowest of the past 47 years, and indeed the lowest of any year between 1965 and 2009.

    Maybe he’s just preoccupied, huh? Smh

  3. david lamb on July 3rd, 2017 11:13 am

    What about the biblical verses ,like “swords to plowshares” near the Lincoln Memorial, “In God we trust” or “one nation under God” These are on Govt. property too. Suppose you want to take these away too!
    To deny God is exactly why America is declining at an enormous rate. Removing God from schools,and Govt is why murder and crime is so prevalent. Man/Women think they are more knowledgeable than God. There is no God, are you stupid or what? Go out in north Esc away from city lights and look up at night. Look at the order in the stars. It wasn’t caused by a big bang or a spontaneous combustion . WE are not smarter than God! Man will pay for its arrogance!

  4. billybebop on July 3rd, 2017 9:42 am

    this should be put to a vote of the people….when courts and congress can not agree what should be done is it should be put to a vote of the people…let the people vote on what should be removed and such

  5. Citizen on July 3rd, 2017 2:50 am

    Let Freedom Ring…The cross will remain.

  6. Dan on July 2nd, 2017 4:37 pm

    David,
    I too am retired military and spent years forward deployed. Mentioning religious symbols and icons in other countries has absolutely no bearing on our country. There are Christian symbols everywhere you turn in the US, these are not an issue if they are on private land. The giant cross however is currently on public land, which violates the Establishment clause. No one is saying you cannot display it, just not on our dime(taxpayers).

  7. Dan on July 2nd, 2017 4:20 pm

    Michelle,
    “Accuser? Charges dropped”… This isn’t a criminal case. You are confusing a civil lawsuit with criminal charges! There are no charges to be dropped. The case simply proceeds when you have a plaintiff with appropriate legal standing, in this case residency. There are other plaintiffs that maintain residency.

  8. Valient Thor on July 2nd, 2017 3:09 pm

    @david lamb

    The time where people might have had an inch of agreement with the “heritage not hate” argument is over. If you believe that draping yourself in the Confederate Flag in this day and age is a symbol of your love for history, then you are taking an untenable position on an era that remains a dark smudge on our Nation’s past. It’s the equivalent of wearing a George Wallace t-shirt because one time in history, a racist decided he wanted to stand up against integrating black and white students and you just want to remind people of a historical event. Give us a break.

    On the subject of the Bayview Park Cross, the ruling was made based on the law. This is how it works. I don’t care which deity you choose to worship (or not), but my taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be funding it. You are still free to practice whatever religion you want, just not on my dime. If the courts decide to overturn the ruling, I would suggest replacing the cross with a multi-denominational marker of some sort.

  9. david lamb on July 2nd, 2017 9:35 am

    During my 23 years in the Air Force I spent time in Okinawa, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia and Malaysia. Symbols and statutes of Buda are all over the place. India has Hinduism everywhere, Muslims have their symbols, In Mexico and South America there are symbols of Christ abundant. I have never been to Europe but have watched travel shows that include their statutes and symbols too.
    As a Christian, I favor the things that depict my faith. I also support those things that show my deep southern heritage. And t hose symbols do not depict the support for slavery . Anyone that reads on the civil war can see that this war was not fought over slavery alone.
    As for the cross.. Many of our first Spanish, French that landed on American soil planted Cross’s and flags to claim the land for their country. To be so sensitive about these placements is nonsensical.

  10. Dan on July 2nd, 2017 9:28 am

    Anne,
    Don’t be disingenuous… no one is suggesting you were serious that you are offended by traffic lights. The problem is you were trying to make an analogy about not liking something and wanting it changed to the plaintiffs wanting the cross removed as if it’s bc we are “offended” by it. You were being facetious about the content, not the context. We aren’t “offended by a cross”… They surround us especially in the “Bible Belt”, there’s a church on virtually every corner. That’s not the problem… the problem is it is on Govt land… build a 100 foot cross, just keep it where it belongs… private land

  11. Dan on July 2nd, 2017 9:16 am

    Chris,
    “Demonic controls”!!! Lol…. Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds to Atheists and Agnostics(and tbh, any rational/logical person)! That’s up there with those folks that believe they have some form of “Holy Spriritual” control over(and protection from) venomous rattlesnakes bc they believe in an obscure passage in the Bible that mentions protections from “serpents and poisons”(who then turn around and die from a venomous bite).
    Let me give you a brief history lesson… When the Constitution was written, women had no rights to vote and Slaves not only couldn’t vote but were also counted as 3/5 of a person for population purposes… If we stuck to how it was originally written, we would still be in a perpetual dark ages. And the founding fathers were mostly Diests, not Christian(but I’m sure you’d attempt to argue otherwise, despite solid evidence of such). I don’t think most would consider suffrage and slavery these days to your so called “new age PC crap”. I don’t like making sweeping generalizations about swaths of society, my “you people” bc there are different nuances to people’s arguments for and against anything. There are “Christian’s” that agree with maintaining the “wall of separation” of church and state, the “you people” moniker is simply those that don’t see distinction and argue some form of legacy to religious icons on govt property(as long as it’s the one you agree with).

  12. david lamb on July 2nd, 2017 8:53 am

    @ Valient
    Robert E Lee, Jefferson Davis, the Confederate Flag are not religious symbols either. They do reflect our heritage and history. To remove one item and leave another is wrong .Take en all down or leave em alone!

  13. Chris in Molino on July 2nd, 2017 8:36 am

    @Dan—You keep referring to “you people”. When the constitution was written, ” us people ” were the only ones around. Similar to how the framers of the constitution had no idea John would one day want to openly marry William. No frigging clue. The atheists and agnostics will grow as people don’t take children to church anymore because their tied up in this sickness called society which has demonic controls upon it. Our constitution was fine before we let “you people” come here and start interpreting (ie; perverting) it with your new age PC crap.

  14. michelle on July 2nd, 2017 7:35 am

    In this country, we are allowed to see our accuser. And since this COWARDLY woman ran off to Canada with her husband. I say the charges be dropped.

    If you have noticed with stories like this. The common link is always an “unnamed” person who complained and digging deeper, never lives that particular area?

  15. Lindaay on July 2nd, 2017 12:22 am

    There is a mosque on Johnson Ave. It offends me. I want it removed.

  16. mike on July 1st, 2017 6:43 pm

    Seth & Thor: Good idea & point

  17. Valient Thor on July 1st, 2017 4:52 pm

    @David Lamb: The MLK bust downtown is not a religious symbol.
    @mike There are no mosques in Pensacola on public/city/county property.

    Again. Under the law, no one’s religious freedom’s have been violated here. Religious symbols are still allowed, just not on public property that is maintained by taxpayer dollars.

  18. anne 1of2 on July 1st, 2017 12:39 pm

    Really Dan, I was being facetious!

  19. Seth Huntley on July 1st, 2017 12:27 pm

    Have the city sell the land to a group of churches for $100 and declare it non taxable, problem solved.

  20. david lamb on July 1st, 2017 10:58 am

    NEVER HEAR OF “CITY OF FIVE FLAGS any more. People are becoming so intolerant these days. Take down that flag/symbol/statute/cross and anything else that in their ignorance they feel offended over. There is even a woman in Canada complaining about the Car, General Lee”.
    Let someone suggest that the MLK statute in Memorial Park be removed and stand back for the screaming that would erupt. GROW UP!

  21. Dan on July 1st, 2017 10:24 am

    Really Anne?… Comparing the Establishment clause to traffic lights? You do realize one is a tacit endorsement of a particular religion and the other is serving ALL citizens by keeping traffic orderly and safe… I’m not sure how anyone can attempt to conflate one with the other. That’s not apples and oranges, that’s apples and orangutans.

  22. Dan on July 1st, 2017 10:14 am

    So many ppl still don’t get it… There are many more residents here that oppose ANY religious symbols on Government property, only four names were attached to this lawsuit bc many of us were not aware of the lawsuit proceeding… They don’t need a certain level of plaintiffs, only enough to qualify for legal standing. Many of us would have gladly lent our name to this, myself included. There is legal precedent set in this case, it’s called the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, just bc you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not the law of the land. This cross currently sits on Government owned property, which, as the Judge ruled, violates the Establishment Clause. If you have a basic reading comprehension level you can read the decision and the judge mentions that he personally doesn’t like it but he had to side with established precedent. You ppl love the cross so much, then move it to a church property… you have literally HUNDREDS of them in Pensacola… Atheists will not object, the whole point is that Government is “by the people and for the people”… Notice there’s no for only the “Christian people”… There are many other faiths here in Pensacola and around our country, and like it or not, there are many, many Atheists and Agnostics as well… We all pay taxes the same as you(well except the churches/synagogues/mosques), and we demand our government represent us as well, which means not putting/maintaining religious symbols on City/State/Federal land/property. You same people that are all up in arms about your cherished cross being removed would be equally if not more so incensed if the government were to put a Islamic crescent as tall as that cross next to it, or a giant Buddha… you think that bc Christianity has the most followers here in the US that it gives you some carte blanch to act as though there aren’t people of other faiths or the large population of NO faiths. We don’t oppose religion, only our tax dollars going to such or the appearance of our govt favoring any at all.

  23. anne 1of2 on July 1st, 2017 9:18 am

    Those people need to find another way to get the attention they seem to need! Traffic lights offend me. I don’t like circles and besides, they eat the fuel in my gas tank! I want them all removed. Now, you know that’s going to happen. I have to look at those traffic lights. These “offended” people do not have to look at the cross. Give us break! Enough is enough!

  24. mike on July 1st, 2017 6:49 am

    Mosques offend me, but I’m not making a federal case out of it. LET THE CROSS STAND! :mad:

  25. 429SCJ on July 1st, 2017 5:04 am

    Who are Canadians, to tell us how to live!

    It is easy to sow discord in times of safety, but let the winds shift us to a time a danger, these intention and their associated bad blood will be between us, with no restraining force or barrier.

    God has thrown you to the hunter before, do not cry and moan, when he does so again.

  26. TIM on July 1st, 2017 4:20 am

    four plaintiffs sued the city saying that the cross was offensive. Two of the plaintiffs live in Canada. One has used the cross himself for his own self-described “satanic purposes.” The fourth plaintiff lives outside Pensacola over seven miles from the cross but still says that seeing that seeing the cross would be offensive. Although a federal court recognized that the cross “is part of the rich history THE TWO THAT LIVE IN CANADA THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE AN\Y SAY WHAT SO EVER THE FOURTH ONE SAID SEEING THE CROSS OFFESIVE HIM IT COULD BE THAT GOD IS TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING LET THE CROSS STAND WE NEED TO STOP ALL OF THIS I AM OFFENED MESS GROW UP PEOPLE

  27. Citizen on July 1st, 2017 2:57 am

    They should go ahead and start calling Pensacola the City of Five Flags again also, same precedent and the right time. Good for them appealing. Those plaintiffs have been a thorn in everyone’s life. They are trying to sue for the city to pay their new defense costs, no way, I hope. Too bad the judge Vinson and the City’s attorneys didn’t rule it correctly in the first place. The info is on Google Justia law..they cost taxpayers there about 80K for their ignorance and the contrived nonsense and disruption of the plaintiffs Suhor and Ryland made national drama .May they hang their heads in shame. They think they were enlightened…lol..





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