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Christian crosses get bigger and bigger … and some double as cell phone towers

Christian crosses get bigger and bigger … and some double as cell phone towers

Huge Christian crosses dot the American landscape, with Effingham, Illinois, claiming that its "Cross at the Crossroads" is the world's largest, standing at 198 feet tall and 113 feet wide.  Another massive Christian cross stands in Groom, Texas.

Not to be outdone, a group in Anchorage, Alaska, wants to construct a cross that is 230 feet high — and taller than all but three of the buildings in Anchorage.  Anchorage's Channel 2 News reports that the pastor of the Anchorage Baptist Temple, where the cross would be constructed, is simply looking at the idea for now.  The church has not yet filed a structural permit application with the city, but on June 20, 2012, the Federal Aviation Administration concluded that the cross would not pose a hazard to air navigation.  The determination will become final at the end of this month unless a petition opposing it is filed.  The cross will need lights that comply with FAA standards so that planes don't crash into it.

In Canada, where the crosses aren't quite so high, churches are reportedly making money by leasing their crosses to cell phone companies, earning up to $20,000 a year for five years.  The New Life Church in Milton, Ontario, proposes to build a steel cross that is approximately 98 feet high.  The cross will encase a Bell cellphone transmission tower, The Star reports.  "We're Christian but we still don't want the big cross like that; it's just a little bit ugly," Lisa Lynn Vas, who owns a lot behind the church, told The Star.  Others are concerned about electromagnetic waves.

The trend is also emerging in the U.S., where crosses and steeples have been modified for cell tower usage since the 1990s.

At the St. John United Church of Christ in Granite City, Illinois, the concept is a bit different from the one at the New Life Church.  Rather than hiding the tower within a cross, a 120-foot tall white tube looms from the parking lot, with a cross tacked on it.  The church's pastor, the Rev. Karla Frost, told Suburban Journals that the rent money for the tower is helping out and the expended cell service is good for the community. "It has a nice cross on it, so it's aesthetically pleasing," she added.  In 2010, a similar structure at the Rolling Hills Moravian Church in the Longwood area near Orlando, Florida, had nearby residents worried about their property values and electromagnetic waves.  The Orlando Sentinel reported that Rev. Willie Israel said the cross "is a symbol of who we are as a Christian community," adding "I'm not convinced that a plain white pole with a cross on the top is aesthetically unpleasing."

Back in 2009, the Epiphany Lutheran Church in Lake Worth, Florida, constructed a 100-foot high cross that contains a cell tower.  Church executive director John Sasson told ABC 25 – WPBF News that in addition to the monthly lease money the church was receiving, the cross provided "advertising we would not have been able to afford."

Sue Sailhamer at The Christian Examiner noted that "churches are often a soft sell for phone companies offering lease revenue in exchange for hiding their towers on rooftops, steeples or crosses."  Churches have an advantage in a competitive market for tower leases where the cell industry is expanding into residential areas because churches are often allowed to violate height restrictions such as placement of a church steeple.

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