Fourteen States and major Jewish groups defend historic cross

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fourteen states, five major Jewish groups, municipal workers, and a community service organization led a groundswell of support for a historic cross under attack in Pensacola, Florida. The broad coalition of religious and secular groups are urging the federal appeals court in Kondrat’yev, et al v. City of Pensacola to protect the 76-year-old landmark from being torn down. 

 The cross was placed in Pensacola’s 28-acre Bayview Park in 1941 by a local community service group as the U.S. prepared to enter World War II. For decades, community events have been held at the cross, including Veterans Day and Memorial Day services. The cross is now one of more than 170 displays in Pensacola’s many parks and serves as a symbol of the city’s history and culture. But in June a federal judge ordered that the cross must be torn down. The city has now appealed.   

Lawsuits like this one, based on offense at religious symbols “encourage the erasure of minority religions from public life,” said the friend-of-the-court brief of five Jewish groups. 

 “The district court’s reasoning would threaten countless monuments,” like “veterans’ memorials that contain religious imagery including crosses, citations to scripture, and the like,” said the friend-of-the-court brief of fourteen states. 

The cross stood for almost 75 years without complaint. But in 2016, the American Humanist Association sued the city of Pensacola on behalf of four people who said the cross was “offensive.”  

The public square can and should reflect the important role that religion plays in our history and culture,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at Becket, which is defending the City of Pensacola. “We don’t have to censor our history and culture just because part of it is religious.”  

The fourteen states and five Jewish organizations were joined by JCI Florida, a community service group and successor to the organization that originally donated the cross, and the International Municipal Lawyers Association, which speaks out on issues of interest to cities around the country. Becket is representing the City of Pensacola and Mayor Ashton Hayward.    

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. 

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more). 

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