A cross that has stood in Pensacola’s Bayview Park for decades should not be torn down, the City of Pensacola told a federal appeals court Tuesday.
The 34-foot-tall white concrete cross has stood in the popular park since 1969, and replaced an earlier wooden cross on the same site which was erected in 1941. The current cross was erected by the Pensacola Jaycees, a civic organization, and given to the city, which spends around $233 a year to keep it cleaned, painted, and illuminated at night.
“Pensacola has a rich history, and it shouldn’t have to censor that history just because part of it is religious,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at Becket, which is defending the City of Pensacola. “The constitution doesn’t treat religion like a nasty habit that must be hidden from public view; it treats it as a natural and valuable part of human culture. Pensacola can treat religion the same way.”
U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson ruled in June that the placement of the cross at the city-owned Bayview Park was unconstitutional and gave city officials 30 days to remove it. A group of Pensacola residents had sued the city in 2015, represented by the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
“After about 75 years, the Bayview Cross can no longer stand as a permanent fixture on city-owned property,” Vinson wrote in the ruling.
That appeals court will now decide the cross’s fate.
“This cross has been a positive symbol of unity for this community for over 75 years. One contrived lawsuit should not be allowed to tear it apart,” said Goodrich.