Idaho Resident Gets Crosses Removed from Water Tower

If you saw the side of the water tower in Roberts, Idaho last week, you would’ve seen this cross (and two others):

But they’re not there anymore thanks to Joe Cohea, who lives in the small town. With the help of the ACLU, Joe got the city to replace the crosses with flags:

Joe Cohea lives right next door to the water tower. He sees it every day and says because it’s city-owned property, it should not have any religious symbols on it.

“My opinion is no kind of religious symbol belongs on city property, period,” said Cohea.

So, Joe took his concerns to City Hall and the American Civil Liberties Union and the crosses came down.

“Roberts has always welcomed religious and cultural expression if requested, but at this point, we haven’t changed any policies,” said Robert “BJ” Berlin, Mayor of Roberts.

One of Joe’s concerns was that the crosses gave the wrong message about Roberts. It’s not just full of Christians, and the city agrees.

“We have many different cultures and faiths, especially for a town our size,” said Berlin. “Joe mentioned Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans, Jews… and he’s right.”

Bravo, Joe! This sort of Christians-marking-their-territory nonsense undoubtedly happens all over the country, especially in small towns, but it takes someone who understands the law and is willing to speak up to change the situation.

Cohea added that there’s usually a nativity scene on government property in December, too, and he’ll alert the ACLU if that happens again this year. You have to wonder why the Mayor wasn’t the one to say something first — he noted that “anyone can put religious or cultural symbols up on the water tower, as long as it’s not derogatory,” but you get the feeling that if atheists and Pagans and Hindus started sending him symbols, the policy would change in an instant.

The comments on the news sites, not surprisingly, are all focused on how Cohea was “offended” and how this is discrimination against Christians and the usual talking points. They’re all wrong, though. It’s all about keeping government neutral with respect to religion.

On a side note: I can’t look away from Mayor Berlin…

(Thanks to Amy for the link!)

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.


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