Remember the incident back in October when, angry about a letter from the Freedom From of Religion Foundation (FFRF) saying that a privately-funded cross on top of the town's publicly-funded water tower was unconstitutional, a Tennessee town paid $4,000 to remove one of the horizontal beams of the cross? Claiming that their religious liberty was being attacked, outraged townspeople were placing crosses in their yards to retaliate and make a statmenet.
Whiteville Mayor James Bellar was so incensed over the letter that he placed crosses on city property in front of city hall in December, which he later adorned with wreaths, according to FFRF. Bellar had told WBBJ-TV in Jackson, TN, "somebody has to stand up to these atheist sons of bitches."
Since letter writing was obviously going nowhere, FFRF took the matter to federal court, where the parties agreed to mediation. The result? The one-armed cross will stay because the city agreed not to replace the arm.
A judgment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee at Jackson on August 8 enumerates the mediated terms:
1. Defendants are enjoined from installing decorated or undecorated stand-alone crosses on city hall property;
2. The Defendants agree not to replace the arm removed from the structure located on the Whiteville water tower, and not to install any other decorated or undecorated stand-alone cross on the water tower;
3. Defendant Bellar agrees not to install a decorated or undecorated stand-alone cross on the publicly owned portion of the sidewalk in front of his insurance agency located at 140 E Main Street in the Town of Whiteville, Tennessee;
4. Within 30 days of the entry of this Agreed Judgment and Order of Dismissal, the Town agrees to pay the Foundation attorney’s fees and other litigation expenses in the amount of $20,000.00. The parties will not apply for, nor will the Court award additional fees or expenses associated with this litigation.
5. All other claims of plaintiff are dismissed with prejudice.
"The result underlines the clear and solid law that government bodies may not place Latin crosses on public property. We are not a Christian theocracy, but a secular republic,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president.
"We thank our local complainant who has remained steadfast in the face of local hostility," added FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. FFRF had not revealed the complainant's name.