Mount Rubidoux Cross Controversy Finally Settled After Private Christian Group Buys Land at Auction

A bit of history about the Mount Rubidoux Cross: It’s been there since 1907. In 1963, the wooden cross was replaced with a concrete/steel one. So the current incarnation of the cross was up on the hill for nearly 50 years. The city of Riverside has owned the land since 1955.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State threatened to file a lawsuit if the city didn’t take it down — their argument was that the cross violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Christian groups were flipping out over this because they saw the case as an anti-Christian group trying to take down their Cross.

Today, there’s finally a resolution to the matter and it’s a good one.

The City Council voted to auction off the 0.43 acres of land that included the Cross, turning it from public space into private space, and Christian groups banded together (under the name Totally Mt. Rubidoux), raised $250,000, and paid $10,500 for the winning bid:

Totally Mt. Rubidoux will use the money it raised, minus the $10,500 bid for the cross property, to set up an endowment for future care and maintenance of the cross. Signs will be posted to denote the cross land is privately owned, but no fences will be put up and the land will remain open to the public.

Americans United’s reaction? Yeah, okay, fine, we don’t really care anymore:

“We are satisfied. I think the most important thing is that this cross will no longer be on public property, so it will no longer send a message that the city favors the Christian religion,” Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director for Americans United, said by phone Wednesday.

That’s the perfect reaction. This is no longer an issue for AU because the land is private, even if it’s in the same location. Had the City Council done this decade ago, they would have saved themselves years of trouble.

(via Religion Clause)

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.

  • Mackinz

    And yet, we’ll still be regarded as “anti-Christian” instead of advocates of the separation of church and state, as shown in our Constitution.

    They (the Christian groups that banded together) probably don’t even care about AU’s statement. They are probably rejoicing that they won the war on Christianity!!!!!!!1

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I have to admit that I still do not like the outcome.

    By having government property littered with an ugly religious symbol like that, it spoils the value of the site. Specifically, it makes the site less desirable to a non-Christian, who at auction would then bid lower than the value the land might otherwise have. Thus, the Christians would outbid the non-Christian, because the government land has been preferentially tainted to be less desirable for a non-Christian to buy it.

  • A3Kr0n

    I think it’s cool they’re going to put the sign up.

  • Chris B

    I concur, but for a different reason. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that instead of the cross being towards (what appears to be) the edge of the property, it is in the center. Could the government then auction off the land in the center of the property surrounding the cross, but maintain ownership of the remainder? Without signs, it would be impossible to differentiate, and as a passer-by, it would look very much like a Christian symbol on public land. There needs to be more than just some signage to delineate the property boundary.

  • Stan Ulrich

    “Today, there’s finally a resolution to the matter and it’s a good one.” — I disagree. Selling off public lands to private/religious outfits, like the Mt. Davidson cross in San Francisco, which IIRC, went for a pittance to an Armenian church, just the tippy-top of the mountain, to technically avoid the unconstitutional presence — that’s just a sham. Nothing really changes, except government is in collusion selling the people’s property to some religious outfit at a pittance. It should be unconstitutional. It should be denounced. It is not a happy outcome, this time or any other.

  • Gavin Millar

    I don’t know if the land is cheap because it’s not really useful for anything or what, but ten grand seems really low for almost half an acre.

  • onamission5

    I’m a bit confounded that people will gladly donate a quarter of a million dollars to purchase a scrap of metal in the shape of a letter t.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Yes, it is more objectionable if they only sold the tiny island of land where the cross is, while it is surrounded by government land, since it would still create the *impression* of being government religion. If they sold the *entire* property, that is much less objectionable.

    Neither this blog nor the source article makes it clear whether the auction was for the *entirety* of the property at that site, or if it is just the *portion* where the cross is located.

  • AlaJack

    @Hemant Mehta… you look like the Marathon bomber .. Tamerlan Tsarnaev.. creepin me out….

  • rustygh

    Don’t go there. Really bad area full of crime. Let them have you don’t want to be 20 miles from that crap hole.

  • Robster

    It they’re so keen on displays of torture devices, why don’t they whip up a couple more, like a stock or one of those things with a saw and conveyor like in James Bond or some other nasty piece equipment? There’s dead bloke on sticks all over the place already. That would add some interest for those not afflicted with baby jesus and his supposed grizzly death.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    The Christian group were probably the only bidders. Isn’t this in the middle of public land? That would wreck the value right there if it wasn’t a national forest or something like that. It really isn’t suited for much besides an ugly metal tower of some sort. Or nothing at all. Nothing at all would be quite pretty.

  • viaten

    How many bidders were there? Were there any secularists that would have taken the cross down?

  • MartinRC

    And in a few years when they won’t care anymore to upkeep the land and it will all go away when they have to sell it off to someone else who decides to tear it down. They only cared about it because they wanted to keep public land for Christianity.

  • Anonymous Atheist

    And how about a statue honoring a really ‘grizzly’ death – the bible story about the bears killing the kids. ;-)

  • Mario Strada

    May I suggest lenscrafters?
    I agree that they both have eyes, a nose with two nostrils, a mouth, forehead etc. But that’s where the similarities end. Maybe I need lenscrafters? I don’t think so.

  • Anonymous Atheist

    Probably not… They raised so much more money than what was needed for the purchase, that they’ve got $240k left over to pay for upkeep for a long time to come.

  • Anonymous Atheist
  • Anonymous Atheist


  • Anonymous Atheist

    According to , Mount Rubidoux Park as a whole is 161 acres. This 0.43 acres (18,730 sq ft – about the size of a 50-car parking lot) is apparently just the top of one peak, surrounding the cross. It’s not as if they drew the boundary as tightly as possible around the base of the cross, but it’s still a tiny fraction of the whole.

  • Rain

    raised $250,000, and paid $10,500 for the winning bid

    Woah Jesus made out like a bandit on that one. I’m sure it will go into a trust fund that nobody will embezzle from.

  • Randay

    It was an auction, others including atheists could have bid up the price. So how can you say it was for a pittance? No one else thought it was worth more. It doesn’t seem to be a behind-the-back deal. Let us atheists raise funds to outbid if we want to get rid of the crosses. In most cases it is probably just a waste of our money. I would give money to buy the federal land where the Mount Soledad Cross is in San Diego. It has always been an eyesore.

    From Wiki: “The American Civil Liberties Union proposed ways to resolve the situation:

    The cross may be dismantled.

    The cross may be sold to a third party and physically transferred
    off the public land. An Episcopal church, located within a few hundred
    feet from the present location of the cross, has agreed to place it on
    its property.

    The government may hold an auction and sell the parcel of the land
    with the cross to the highest bidder. However, the government is not
    allowed to give any preference to those buyers who are interested in
    preserving the cross. An auction such as this was the subject of Proposition K in 2004, which failed 40% to 59%.

    Defenders of the cross saw all these options as unacceptable and were
    determined to find a way to leave the cross intact in its present

  • Tom

    The values and priorities of the buyers are also way screwed up. Think how much good you could do in the world with a quarter of a million dollars; instead, they’re pissing it all away just to make sure their tribal symbol will continue to stand and show everyone who’s boss for years to come.

    Should they be allowed to do that? Yes. Should they be condemned for doing it? Also yes.

  • newavocation

    I’d like to see how they establish the terms of the upkeep. $80k per year for a minister’s brother to mow, pick weeds or do touch up paint maybe? It will all be gone soon, then there will be a another fund drive to save the Cross and Christianity from the heathens. What a racket!

  • allein

    Apparently only one other; they bid 10K (the minimum bid) and didn’t challenge the higher bid from the winners. The auction lasted all of half a minute.

  • allein

    It appears to be on a bunch of rocks…doesn’t look there’s even much to do in terms of landscaping.

  • chicago dyke

    i’m sure glad there aren’t any hungry children or homeless people in need in the area. i’m sure tending a rock is a much more christian use of a quarter million dollars.

  • vincent findley

    Your faction could have just as easily bid on the property, just saying.

  • vincent findley

    We are the biggest donators to starving kids in third world countries, you all reach on that type of rebuttal.

  • vincent findley

    I’m sure the proper notice was given as to the time and place of the auction your godless factions could have all been there. Stop whining.

  • vincent findley

    This isn’t about that, stay on subject.

  • Immanuel Goldstein

    Actually, I think it’s a great idea. Let’s put it on some property next to a church.

  • allein

    I’m not whining. I’m answering a question.

  • vincent findley

    As is your right to religious freedom, it will probably get taken down,but that’s beside the point. The discussion was a cross on public land now on private land. Stay on subject Mr. Goldstein. I love the rhetoric on this blog when you all get butt hurt. Always avoiding the subject and changing it to something not even remotely close to the subject at hand.

  • Matt Norris

    Being the biggest donators to starving kids doesn’t change the fact that this money could be better spent actually helping people like their Jesus would have wanted.

  • Guest

    I didn’t say this one went for a pittance — I said that I recalled the Mt. Davidson cross in San Francisco did.

  • Stan Ulrich

    I didn’t say this one went for a pittance, though $10,500 isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things. The Mt. Davidson cross on the highest point in San Francisco went for $26,000 per . And that is a pittance in terms of mountain tops, .38 of an acre, in San Francisco.

  • vincent findley

    We are also the biggest donators to the Red Cross, the homeless plight, and generally the first to offer assistance as in disasters like in Boston Monday, yet you all found a way to make it about religious privilege because you all weren’t invited to an inter faith service(key word being FAITH). I will give you all we should have banded together for the sake of the victims, but this pissing contest that we “ALL” created will go far beyond our years.

  • Mario Strada

    Vincent, don’t come here with your answers already formulated in search of a post. You made a good point 2 posts ago and ruined it with this snarky one.

  • Logan Blackisle

    The depends on whether you consider total amount or percentage.

    Total amount, you’re right, US is the biggest.

    Percentage, US gives 0.19 % of GDP to foreign – 21st in the world. Number 1 is Sweden with 0.99 % of GDP.

  • wmdkitty

    That thing is an eyesore.

  • Mary

    Long live the pagan god Tammuz and his Tau cross!

  • SeekerLancer

    And you know what? It’s on private land now and we don’t give a crap anymore. Not even a little bit.

    See how that works, Christian groups? Can we stop explaining this public/private thing to you now?

  • Brian

    Damn, you’re freakin’ blind as a bat. Sucks to be you.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    Right, because when the overwhelming religious majority that controls virtually every major institution has been denouncing atheists as immoral since before anyone alive today was born, and the atheists finally get fed up and push back for a couple of years, that’s something we “ALL” created.

    You need an argument that isn’t predicated on blaming victims, okey dokey?

    Nice job with the “keyword FAITH” line, and the presumption that donating more total dollars because of advantages in numbers and organization equals moral superiority. You very nicely stuck to the Script of Privilege that you complain about. Congratulations.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    They could, I dunno, add more crosses or a billboard or something?

  • Charles Honeycutt

    If you consider that whining, you’re too lost in your persecution complex to comprehend what people are writing. Take a nap. Frigging crybaby.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    I love how people with persecution complexes spend their time doing things like trying to play Topic Police when they see something that threatens their tenuous ability to hold cognitive dissonance at bay.

    Pro Tips: It isn’t your blog, whiner, and your projected butt hurt is not anyone else’s problem.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    And? Irrelevant post is irrelevant. And you know better if you actually saw the $250,000 raised for it by wringing their hands at huge numbers of gullible people. You might as well be the guy claiming that the rich and the poor alike have the right to not go to bed hungry.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    It was a pittance to organizations that could pull together a quarter of a million dollars JUST for this. Secular groups are much smaller and have to make wiser decisions. Other than that, I rather agree with both of you. It’s a sham, but contesting said sham isn’t worthwhile.

  • Darrell Ross

    Wouldn’t it have been cooler if they had bought the land? It is odd to me that the city sold the land to a Christian group.

  • vincent findley

    I’m not lost in anything Mr. Honeycutt, You all make everything about the constitution. You all had the chance to be the highest bidder if you all chose. Well now that it’s on private property you all find another way to bitch and whine about it. Oh it’s constitutionally correct now because of a technicality, but it’s still constitutionally correct so until it’s not shut the freek up about it and move on!!

    Just pointing out the facts Mr. Honeycutt on this discussion no more no less. I comprehend all to well what you Godless heathens are writing. All our money could be better spent finding a way to prevent a……..holes like the two terrorists from penetrating our security systems.

  • vincent findley

    And I stick by that post. I don’t give a rats ass if you think most of my posts are snarky. You all volley and I return the serve. You all do a very good job of sarcasm on this blog too. I”m not in search of posts, I look to get cranked on by several of you, because when I do I know I’ve struck the right nerve.