Evansville Riverfront Display of Plastic Crosses Violates the First Amendment

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
June 25, 2013 12:00 am

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INDIANAPOLIS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana today filed suit on behalf of two Vanderburgh County residents against the City of Evansville for permitting the display of religious symbols on public property. The display violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The First Amendment prohibits the government from endorsing a particular religious faith, or religion at all, said Gavin M. Rose, ACLU of Indiana staff attorney. “While the church can certainly display emblems of its faith on its own property, the City of Evansville may not allow it to do so in the public right-of-way.”

Last week, the City of Evansville’s Board of Public Works gave permission to West Side Christian Church to display 30 eight-foot tall plastic crosses on a stretch of Riverside drive between Court Street and Locust Street. The public space upon which the crosses will be displayed is supported by taxpayers and is a popular destination for residents and visitors. A cross, such as those that will be installed on the Riverfront, is perhaps the most well-known symbol in the world of the Christian faith. The Establishment Clause prohibits the state from endorsing a specific religion or any religion at all.

“The City of Evansville is home to a rich tapestry of beliefs and faiths,” said ACLU of Indiana Executive Director Jane Henegar. “Our nation’s founders anticipated that in a democracy the majority may have a tendency to eclipse the minority. In their wisdom, they created the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, to protect the rights of each and every one of us.”

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