Here's something to chew over this morning:
The Florida Times-Union
October 1, 2005
Water tower's bright cross heads to tense court battle
By JEFF BRUMLEY
STARKE -- Anita Patterson and her dachshund Jodee were strolling up Christian Street Wednesday morning when she was asked about the 100-foot tall, silver city-owned water tower standing just yards away.
Yes, the one just off U.S. 301 with the 10-foot lighted cross perched on top.
"Without that cross we wouldn't know our way home," Patterson said, explaining she means that literally, because she lives nearby, and spiritually, because she is a Christian.
"To me, what it is, especially being up that high -- the cross is a lighthouse," she said.
But to a local atheist and a national atheists' civil rights organization, the cross wrongly declares Christianity as an official religion, and they are suing in federal court in Jacksonville to have it taken down.
"They put the cross up to intimidate people, that's my opinion," said Lon Bevill, a Bradford County resident and atheist who lives just outside the city limits.
New Jersey-based American Atheists Inc. shares that opinion and is financing litigation in which the organization and Bevill are plaintiffs. They say the cross violates the federal and the state constitutions.
"Every time he sees the cross, he feels alienated and demeaned by a sense that in the eyes of the community, his absence of religious belief renders him a second-class citizen," the lawsuit says of Bevill, 64.
The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction requiring the city to remove the cross and reimburse attorney fees.
City Manager Ken Sauer said Starke will respond to the lawsuit, "but I don't know when."
Sauer, City Commissioner Larry Davis and Library Director Phalbe Henrickson said they don't know when the cross was erected or by whom.
"We're researching that," Sauer said.
Davis said the cross has been there at least 40 years.
"It really has been up there so long nobody remembers," Henrickson said.
A 1999 Miami Herald story said a Starke mayor put the cross up in the 1950s.
Sauer confirmed the lawsuit's claim that there have been previous complaints about the cross.
Mayor Carolyn Spooner and City Attorney Terrence Brown did not return phone calls seeking comment.
But Davis didn't shy away from expressing his support for the cross and his disgust for the lawsuit.
"It really makes you mad to know someone wants to take something down that represents Christ on the cross," Davis said.
He estimated at that least 75 percent of the city's approximately 9,500 residents attend church -- including himself.
"I'm a born-again Christian and I will stand behind the community," Davis said. "If the community wants that left up there, then we will stand toe-to-toe and fight whoever we have to fight."
Over on Christian Street, Patterson said she hadn't heard that a lawsuit had been filed. She suggested an easy solution for Bevill.
"Ignore it, just don't look at it," she said. "It's not like we're forcing Christianity and the Bible on you."
But David Silverman, a spokesman for the American Atheists, said it does force a particular religion on non-believers and people of other faiths, and violates the law.
"They have churches and they have places for that," he said about displays of crosses and other religious symbols.
"And it doesn't matter if 99.9 percent of them are Christian, they don't get to choose to break the law, especially federal law," Silverman said.
At a restaurant near the water tower Wednesday morning, Bevill explained that he has lived in the area since the 1970s and has complained to city officials before about the cross.
He says his opposition has fueled such strong tensions that he felt the need to buy a gun for protection.
With a full head of white, wavy hair, dark blue eyes and a deep voice, the former pilot and aircraft mechanic explained that he got fed up and contacted American Atheists after recently meeting other people in town who felt intimidated by the symbol.
"I just figured it was time," Bevill said.
jeff.brumleyjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4310
@You can learn more at about American Atheists at www.atheists.org
There's a picture that accompanies this article with Bevill holding a pistol with the water tower in the background. I really don't have an opinion about whether the cross should stay or go, but I'm trying to figure out why the reporter would have Bevill pose in such a way.
BTW, this is Florida we're talking about here. Dude, that's a tiny gun.
I don't give a fat rat's ass about the tower or the cross, but the lack of trigger discipline bothers me.
How the fuck is a cross going to intimidate someone? About the nearest I can figure a cross could be used to intimidate someone is if you're carrying it at the head of an army marching into Mecca while chanting "death to islam".
Did you ever notice that older dudes with long gray hair are always
Flaming Liberals and/or PETA, ELF Wackjobs. "F" that fat hippie.
Crosses are intimidating to Vampires!
That is the freakiest photo setup, I've ever seen. The
"atheist" looks like a potential serial killer who is about
to have .32 hole in his left bicep.
he needs to just fucking get over it.
and that's where our hard earned tax dollars go.
paying off frivolous law suits to anyone who can claim to be some sort of victim.
Why can't the mayor just declare that the cross is not a piece of Christian symbolism, but that it is just a piece of "art". Hippies love art, right?
Wonder how long until some whiner goes after Corpus Christis, TX
You mean just because of the name?
We should put more crosses up! Lousy people will feel "alienated and demeaned".
Ya know, I fucking hate it when someone looks to be a victim. I'm an atheist. I am not intimidated by crosses. Nor am I butt hurt about "under God" in the pledge. Granted it wasn't originally in the pledge to begin with, but not that big a deal.
Now if you tried to mandate church attendance, or force participation in prayer, we might have a problem, but what the fuck?
It pisses me off that every whiny pissant nutter wants to erase any image of any religion anywhere.
It also pisses me off when someone is in your face about religion all the time. Fucking keep your beliefs to yourself, have a little respect that other people have their own ideas, and everyone is happy. Why is that so fucking hard to do?
The atheists want God (or any reference thereof out of everything) and the Evangelicals want God (or some reference thereof) injected into everything. Both sides are assholes, and both sides antagonize each other.
It is possible to be moral and kind and have absolutely no belief in a God of any kind, just like it's possible to fereverently believe in a God and be a complete waste of oxygen and toilet paper.
Not all atheists are baby eating commies. Granted, some are, but Pat Robertsone is an asshole too....
As long as the cross/ten commandments (good set of guidlines by the way)/twelve foot tall creepy Jesus on velvet isn't paid for by taxpayer money, who fucking cares?