You may recall a bit from a couple weeks ago concerning the cross atop the municipal water tower in Whitesville, Tennessee. I thought the Mayor’s reaction to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s lawsuit threat misued the word “terrorist,” and the mayor hasn’t stopped calling FFRF “terrorists.” But there won’t be a lawsuit because the mayor has removed the cross. Sort of. He took down one of the two arms of the Latin cross and left the rest up there. The result looks, well, bizarre.
The intent is quite clearly to remind people that once there was a cross up there, and now it’s disfigured. If that doesn’t strike you as a cut-off-the-nose-to-spite-the-face sort of maneuver, consider the mayor’s letter to the FFRF lawyer in Nashville:
This brings to close a sad chapter in the history of Whiteville that can best be described as terroristic, cowardly and shameful! The fear and terror caused our older people here is shameful. So shame on your client and your firm!
Really? Mr. Mayor, the town was displaying a religious symbol for the sake of advancing religion. There ought to have been no doubt that your town would have lost the lawsuit. And here’s the thing of it — God isn’t banned from the public square. He just has to get there by way of private speech, not by governmental action. Nothing is stopping you personally from putting a big ol’ cross on the roof of your own house or building a tower to display it. Well, maybe some local zoning laws or building codes, which it seems that you as mayor are uniquely positioned to do something about. There’s really no call to be so childish.
Ah, but that’s addressing the issue on the merits, and of course that’s not really what the mayor wants to do here. He wants to express contempt and spite. And he succeeded. I’m sure his citizens must be proud: after all, he gave in to the “terrorists.”