Illinois Mayor Angry That a Cross on Public Property Will Be Taken Down

This is unbelievable.

Mayor Patrick Kitching of Alsip, Illinois intended to have a 19-foot-high cross erected on the village water tower. Why? Because Alsip loves Jesus (and hates Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, and everyone else who lives in their village, I suppose). They’ve been doing this for 35 years so the mayor thinks the law doesn’t apply to them because, you know, “tradition.”

The Alsip water tower (Brett Roseman – Sun-Times Media)

Last year, after receiving a tip from a local resident, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent Kitching a letter (PDF) urging him to take down the cross. It was illegal, sending a signal to citizens that the government promoted Christianity:

It is our information and understanding that a cross sits on top of the Village of Alsip water tower… We also understand that this cross is illuminated at night, making the display noticeable to all passersby including travelers on I-294. We are told that the cross is erected each year and is lit during the weeks leading up to Christmas. From satellite images, it appears that the cross is stored year round on top of the water tower.

Kitching received the letter but just ignored it.

You know how I know that? Because he $%&#ing admitted it:

“They tried to get me to take it down last year and I just ignored them,” Kitching said.

Mayor Patrick Kitching

This year, FFRF sent him another letter. It must have been much more direct about a potential lawsuit because Kitching capitulated quickly (PDF):

A tradition for almost 35 years here in the Village of Alsip is coming to an end.
You will notice this year our holiday decoration on the West Water Tower (Holiday Cross) will not be erected nor lit. We have an organization out of Wisconsin, Freedom from Religion Foundation, who is threatening a lawsuit for having a holiday symbol that can be construed as a religious decoration. It is considered to be unconstitutional. Other municipalities have been brought to suit regarding this very same issue and have lost. We have chosen not to waste taxpayer dollars to fight a losing battle in court. The holiday cross will be replaced with a different holiday decoration in the future, however, I am not sure this process can be completed in time for Christmas of 2012.

I am very saddened by this and had hoped we would not have to change tradition, however in these economic times, the Village cannot afford to waste any tax dollars on a lawsuit that simply cannot be won.

Did you catch that last part? Kitching is basically saying, “I know this is an illegal promotion of Christianity, but I was hoping no one would notice. If we get sued by FFRF, we’re going to lose and taxpayer money will be wasted, so I’ll stop stepping all over the Constitution.”

You don’t get credit for doing the right thing after you were forced to do it under threat of a lawsuit.

Also, notice how he uses the same arguments Christians always use in these instances:

It’s “tradition.” (As if doing the wrong thing for a long time makes it right.)

Nobody has ever complained about it.” (As if the minority’s silence means they are ok with everything the majority does.)

Local Christians don’t seem to get it, either:

Derrick Hughes, a village resident and a trustee at Christ United Methodist Church of Alsip, said the mayor “should ignore the anti-religion group.”

“This is kind of silly. I could understand this if it was derogatory like a swastika or a burning cross,” said Hughes, 64, who served in the Air Force.

“This ticks me off. This is about taking more of our freedoms away. What happened to freedom of speech? My goodness,” he said.

As anyone who’s not a Christian can tell you, the cross is just a nice Christian way of telling you you’re going to burn in hell for all eternity. There’s nothing joyous or welcoming about it if you reject the whole Christian mythology in the first place.

And no one’s taking away Christians’ freedom of speech. If Hughes wants to put a cross on his church’s lawn, no one’s going to complain about it. Ditto if he puts it in his front yard.

Much like Pat Robertson did recently, Kitching thought he would also throw in a little joke about how evil FFRF was… because they called him out on breaking the law:

The village plans to replace the cross with a lighted holiday tree on the water tower, Kitching said.

To avoid any potential problems, it will not be called a Christmas tree, he said.

“I thought about putting up a 30-foot Grinch, but I couldn’t find one,” Kitching said.

Much like Pat Robertson, Kitching is being an asshole.

FFRF isn’t trying to ruin Christmas. They’re trying to defend the Constitution. The question we should be asking is why Kitching isn’t eager to do the same thing.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.