Home / News / Mayor of Tennessee town calls atheists "terrorists" for wanting removal of cross on city water tower
Mayor of Tennessee town calls atheists "terrorists" for wanting removal of cross on city water tower

Mayor of Tennessee town calls atheists "terrorists" for wanting removal of cross on city water tower

Tennessee hits the news again with religious controversy, this time in Whiteville, TN.   After first saying that the city would take down the cross under pressure from the Freedom From Religion Foundation due to lack of funding, in a recent FoxNews story as of yesterday, it sounds as if the mayor is going on a whole new tear.

The mayor is convinced the town is under attack by atheists, and calls them "terrorists."  FoxNews reports:

The mayor of Whiteville, Tenn. said his community is under attack from a national atheist organization that is threatening to sue unless they remove a cross atop the town’s water tower.

“They are terrorists as far as I’m concerned,” said Mayor James Bellar about the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “They are alleging that some Whiteville resident feels very, very intimidated by this cross.”

The cross was put on top of the water tower eight years ago by a private group of citizens.   Apparently they collected private donations to cover the cost of the cross.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation says, however, that the law is very clear about separation of church and state:

“The law is very clear on this,” Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Dan Barker told Fox News Radio. “A secular city may not promote or hinder religion. We don’t have a problem with believers putting up crosses wherever they want, but this is a cross put up by the city on the city water tower.”

Barker said they’ve been sending letters to the city since last year demanding that the cross be taken down, acting on behalf of an unnamed resident who complained.

The mayor doesn't believe that anyone is offended by the cross, and isn't afraid to say so. The mayor's not taking the cross down, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation is threatening to sue if he doesn't.  It doesn't look like either side is willing to back down.

About Dakota O'Leary

Dakota O'Leary is a freethinker, and often sassy, scholar of theology and literature. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master of Arts degree in Theology and Literature from Antioch University-Midwest. She is a contributing writer focusing on eschatology, biblical prophecy, and general religious news. Dakota is a co-host of the God Discussion radio show, offering insight to the news stories of the week. We like to call her "our in-house Biblical prophecy expert" as her articles on eschatology have received over 200,000 views on God Discussion.
  • This will raise some interesting legal questions since the privately funded cross is on a public fixture as opposed to public land. In any event, this gives a whole new meaning to "holy water."


  • yes, I agree with you on the legal questions. Holy water! Reminds me of an episode of Supernatural when Dad dropped a rosary in a water tower…. LOL!

  • This is pretty much what Holy Water is. Holy Water is just plain old every day water that a priest says a few words and abracadabra, it's suddenly holy. In this case, a church did their silly magic by placing a cross on it.

  • Sandy

    if the cross was privately funded, how does that mean the state has over stepped their bounds? I get that it is on a public fixture, but aren't the private citizens who put it up part of the public? Personally, I could see this as an issue if the city was forbidding some groups and allowing others, but that doesn't seem to even be the issue.

    It is freedom OF religion folks, not freedom FROM religion. Freedom FROM religion wouldn't be freedom at all, except for maybe atheists. Freedom OF religion is a much better concept of freedom.

    • blake

      The problem is that it is government property. By allowing the cross to be placed upon their property whether they intend it or not, they are supporting that religion which is obviously forbidden. Imagine a similar yet different scenario for a moment. What if when you went to the court house or the town hall you step inside and it is christian stuff everywhere. All of this stuff was paid for by private donations but again, since this is government property they are not allowed to endorse religions.

    • Darrell

      Freedom of religion requires freedom from religion.


    • SD_Dave

      Sandy, let me ask you this. Suppose a group of Muslims collected private donations and placed the Islamic symbol of a crescent moon with a star…….would you be okay with that?

      Didn't think so!

    • Sandy, you cannot have freedom OF religion without freedom FROM religion. You have to have both to have the one. It does not work any other way.

    • Martin

      Who pays the monthly electric bill? This is a lighted cross. The government should concern itself with government business and stay out of religion.

  • Winston

    Eskimo: I didn't know God and sin, would I have gone to HeII for not knowing?

    Priest: No, not if you didn't know.

    Eskimo: Then why did you tell me?

  • Jake

    "The mayor doesn't believe that anyone is offended by the cross, and isn't afraid to say so."
    Ummm… A group of people is threatening a lawsuit and he doesn't believe anyone is offended? He may be mayor but he sounds quite ignorant.

    • Joe

      Actually, "A group of people is threatening a lawsuit…" Don't live in the municipality in question. Besides, what ever happened to the "freedom" to move to somewhere that better suits your own personal beliefs?

      • Johann

        Because we already live there. It's just that some people keep trying to mess up the neighborhood by turning back the clock on that whole "freedom of religion" thing.

        Kind of reminds me of Ford's famous quote about the color of the Model T. You're free to have any religious viewpoint, so long as it's (the majority-approved kind of) Christian.

      • pams

        "Don't live at the municipality in question." Right back atch babe. How about you move to someplace where religion and politics go hand in hand? Like Iran. Oh, wrong religion? How about you start your own Christian nation as the US was specifically designed NOT TO BE ONE.

  • Andre

    If it was placed there by private individuals it should be removed and they should be fined for littering

  • Johann

    Objecting to the government's preferential treatment for Christianity makes you a terrorist now? No wonder the person who doesn't feel comfortable with that cross chose to remain anonymous. I'd be worried about the crazy mayor setting my house on fire.

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