Much like groups can adopt-a-highway in different states, promising to clean it every few months in exchange for a sign with their name on it, some cities allow you to adopt pieces of land.
That’s what Antonio Liquori, the owner of Liquori’s Pizza, did when he took control of a local traffic island in West Springfield, Massachusetts:
But instead of just keeping it clean, Liquori decided to stick a giant statue of the Virgin Mary on the island:
Of course, just because you “adopt” the island doesn’t make it your property, so this could easily be seen a government endorsement of religion. Liquori was asked to remove the statue. The Deputy Director of Operations, Vincent DeSantis, wrote to him:
“Unfortunately, in this day and age, religious artifacts are not to be displayed on city property.”
And now people in the city are acting like this is a fight worth having:
“When I took that statue off the ground, it really, really hurt me so much. It’s just so emotional you know, it really bothers me a lot,” said Antonio Liquori.
“It shouldn’t be right that one person, one or two people wrecks it for everyone else. There are so many people who love her,” said Johanna Searles.
After the statue was removed was when other members of the community got involved. West Side’s Joan Palermo even started a petition. “My heart broke, my heart broke, I have a Virgin Mary in front of my house and my heart just broke,” Palermo said.
Of course, religious statues on government property aren’t subject to majority rule. The law is clear on this, and Liquori and his supporters are just ignorant about it. He can always put the statue in his pizza parlor — no one would ask him to take it down — but he can’t just put up religious symbols wherever he wants.
For the time being, the city has allowed him to keep the statue on the traffic island while they pretend like they’re not sure what the law says.
Liquori says that Mayor Greg Neffinger got involved, telling him that he can return the statue to the island, at least until the city’s lawyers have a chance to go over the case.
But this shouldn’t last long.
In fact, it wouldn’t even take this long if the religion in question wasn’t Christian in nature. Get a Muslim symbol or atheist sign in place of the Virgin Mary and the same protesters would change their tune in a heartbeat.
(Thanks to Andy for the link!)