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.

  • TiltedHorizon

    Hooray! The constitution wins again!

    Poor Christians, having to be dragged kicking and screaming back to a neutral position that ultimately protects their faith. I feel terrible.

    • Fred

      Where is the kicking and screaming, I must have missed it.

      • TiltedHorizon

        Follow the link in the article to the comments section where the boilerplate ‘discussions’ against their removal are ongoing.

  • A3Kr0n

    Does Robert have spacers in his ears?
    Is it just me, or is Discus annoying the hell out of others, too?

    • TiltedHorizon

      I’ve been having the worst time with disqus too. Keeps notifying me that people who replied to me years ago have just replied. Then there is the time out issues as Disqus just hangs on me.

      • Rob U

        I find that Disqus will just randomly delete my posts. I’ll submit it, I’ll see it show up, then I go away to do something else and come back later to check for replies and see that its now missing.

        I’ve had to start saving my longer, more though out, replies where I’ve worked hard to get the wording “just right” just in case Disqus looses them.

    • C Peterson

      It is totally failing. I have to reload many times to get the latest posting (some kind of cache failure?), I no longer get the mobile page on my tablet, posts appear and disappear. (Not sure if that’s purely a Disqus problem, a problem with Patheos, or just with FA… or maybe a combination of all of them.)

      As a rule over the years, every Disqus “upgrade” has further reduced the usability of the system.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        It’s a Disqus issue. It has been going on for a few weeks now.

  • Matthew Baker

    In related news most water towers are still ugly no matter what you do to them. There are a few novelty ones that have a redeeming quality–a giant peach, eight ball or strawberry make for far better viewing.

  • Wrich

    Damn it, I was just about to demand equal time for Odin, FSM, and Alan Moore’s Snake God.

  • Bdole

    Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  • C Peterson

    Based on the second image, it rather appears that one of the crosses was removed with a canon!

    • Artor

      I saw that. What looks like a big dent is probably an access hatch, so the tank can be entered & cleaned when it’s empty.

  • LesterBallard

    I want to put the symbols of other religions up in these situations. Let them be galled at having to share or admit that when they say freedom of religion they mean their religion.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      Wrong! This is a Christian Nation numb nuts. Some poorly written book told me so.

    • baal

      I fully agree, we should have something like a nation put an Om on the courthouse day.

  • Drakk
  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

    Citation needed.

    • MineApostasy

      Luckily enough “friendly” and “pushover” aren’t synonyms.

  • baal

    “Christians-marking-their-territory nonsense”
    This^
    For much the same reasoning, I painted over tags that showed up on my garage that showed up now and then. So did my neighbors for their garages.

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m really happy that in this case the mayor said not that “I wish we could keep doing this, but the law says we can’t and someone’s going to sue us if we keep it up”, but rather, “He’s right, we have to consider everyone in our community”. That’s a much better response than we’ve seen from others lately.

  • Candie Ne CO

    Wish Joe would get Congress to shut off the money they give, taxpayers money to churches. The refugee resettlement program get over 13.7 billion and over 10 billion goes to the Catholic church, thanks to Pelosi. so congress is using our money to bring Somali Muslims to the US and then beef plants like Cargill hire the refugees instead of Mexicans, the refugees have visas and don’t have taxes withheld so Cargill & others don’t have to match SS & medicare. Pelosi a Catholic got this money for the program money for her church, to bring Muslims here to take jobs away from Mexicans who are Catholics. What? Isn’t this the way Congress – DC does things.
    We should shut off the money we give to Congress to spend – but the Treasury Dept. would just do what they are doing now, putting money in banks with obama’s boy’s computer. We need to fire they all, and start with “Fair Tax” that would be for the people, not the crooks in DC and NY and Chicago. You’re Fired! is what we need to be chanting.
    Candie NE CO town of 12,000 and 1200 Somali Muslims thanks to Cargill & the local Lutheran Church, Churches are now called VOLOGS.
    Anyway Joe this is what you should be fighting is the money, our money given to churches, Congess is deciding for us what charity and how much to give. It’s Wrong! they think they know better what to do with our money than we do, I damn sure wouldn’t be using my money to bring Muslims from a terrorist country to the U.S.

  • StupidCitizens

    I like how the religious and non-religious are barking at each other endlessly. I guess if we keep our eyes are the large gauged pierced ears and piss and moan about the expression of faith, we won’t notice our owners robbing us blind and chipping away at our REAL liberties. Way to go, humanity! You totally missed the entire fucking point … AGAIN! /clap clap clap/


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