11-Story Mississippi Cross Nixed By Local Planning Board; Pastor and Flock Are in High Dudgeon

Is a church allowed to put religious symbols on its own property?

No problem, have at it.

But what if it’s 11 stories tall — as in a 110-foot-high, 18-ton cross? So massive that the Federal Aviation Administration has to sign off on it?

The planning commission of Brandon, Mississippi decided to oppose erecting such a cross in the town, for two reasons: the highest edifice in Brandon is just two stories tall, plus local zoning laws stipulate that “auxiliary structures,” such as the planned cross, may be no taller than 20 feet.

Case closed? Not according to an outraged pastor Scott Thomas of Brandon’s First Baptist Church, who took his case to the media, including FOX News.

“They were led by the Holy Spirit to seek a location in Mississippi,” Thomas told FOX, referring to Crosses Across America, the organization that sponsors the building of giant crosses all over the country, some costing upwards of $100,000.

“92,000 cars a day travel along the Interstate 20 corridor. Those are people who need hope, who need inspiration.”

I suspect that if I erected an 11-story atheist sign on private property in Brandon, or an 11-story model of a minaret, and then defended such a dick move by claiming millions would draw hope and inspiration from it, Pastor Thomas — and the FOX pundits — would be somewhere between discomfited and foaming-at-the-mouth mad.

As it happens, Islam was on Thomas’ mind after he heard that the planning commission objected. He charged publicly, and without corroboration, that

… elected officials are also afraid the cross might offend Muslims.

Mayor Butch Lee, while standing by the commission, didn’t exactly demonstrate a fine grasp of constitutional principles when he offered this defense:

“I can assure you that our planning commission and our city board are without doubt, 100 percent born-again Christians — every one one of them.”

Thomas’ church wants a variance (Christians seeking exceptions to the law — now I’ve heard everything!), and has started both a petition and a Facebook page to beg for God’s blessing of the project.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • Bitter Lizard

    I’m cool with an 110-foot cross as long as we can find an 109-foot deity to nail to it.

  • Lee Miller

    if you left off the horizontal piece it would be a statue of a giant dick. Maybe that’s what all the crosses are . . . . disguised phalluses for a secret dick-worshiping cult.

  • Regina Carol Moore

    Zoning laws are zoning laws. It’s ridiculous they’re trying to turn this into a religious issue. Or that they think they deserve a variance because they’re a religious group.

  • iamgog

    So they want to be the third church to have one of these things? It’s quite plainly a gimmick to get people to make “pilgrimages” to see the thing. I don’t get why a gigantic cross is more inspiring than a smaller version, anyhow. Hell, their cross won’t even be the tallest one; that title belongs to the original pointlessly large cross in Effingham, Illinois at 198 feet tall. That’s a whole 88 extra feet of inspiration that they’re missing out on.

    Go big or go home.

    Edit: I just learned that there is a gigantic cross in Saint Augustine, Florida that reaches up to 208 feet! It’s a religious monument that could double as a cell phone tower.

  • Bitter Lizard

    I think someone already tried this…

  • LesterBallard

    They wouldn’t allow anything like that represented any other religion.

  • Stev84

    Would would they build if Jesus had been hanged, stoned or beheaded?

    And the stupid people are out in force on their Facebook page. You lose brain cells every second you spend there.

  • iamgog

    > It’s ridiculous they’re trying to turn this into a religious issue.

    The point is that a lot of people all over the country won’t find it as ridiculous as you do. They’ll crow about religious freedom and America and God. In times like this we need God’s guidance more than ever, you know. What better way to spread the gospel than with 110 feet of bland, white-painted corrugated-steel covered Jesusy goodness?

  • Frazzah

    If there’s something people can draw hope from, it’s a giant torture device.

  • jdm8

    By their reasoning, I’m surprised more Christians haven’t gone the Flavor Flav route with absurdly large crosses hanging from their necks.

    Because the size of your cross (necklace) shows us the size of your piety and the hope that you offer. /sarcasm.

  • iamgog

    I think I’ve found my next business venture. I need some investment capital and a prayer, here!

  • Fargofan

    I wonder how much it would cost. Wouldn’t that money be better spent, I don’t know, feeding the poor?

  • Rev. Achron Timeless

    On a long roadtrip that went through part of texas, we saw a similarly large cross out in the middle of nowhere. I honestly have no idea where it was as these were the days long before GPS was reasonably priced or included with most phones.

    The idea that they want to plant those eyesores across the country is unnerving.

  • duke_of_omnium

    What would they build if Jesus had died of a bowel obstruction?

  • DougI

    No doubt they’ll complain they’re persecuted just like the Jews in Nazi Germany if they aren’t allowed to put up this expensive monstrosity.

  • eric

    Meh, its a local zoning issue. I could see it going either way for completely secular reasons. “No” because the county rarely allows variances and only for specific reasons which the cross doesn’t meet, or “yes” because they regularly allow variances and the cross fits in with some category of variances they typically allow.

  • eric

    “They were led by the Holy Spirit to seek a location in Mississippi,”

    Evidently, the holy spirit did not see fit to lead them to a place where 110 foot buildings were generally allowed.

  • bananafaced

    I’m from Brandon, MS and this is not the kind of thing we need to promote business in this area. We have a brand new outlet mall (Outlets of MS) just down the road, we just passed “liquor by the drink”, we have a large reservoir suitable for boating and fishing, and we have very low unemployment. That’s the kind of publicity we need here.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    But how else are we supposed to save the town from the second coming of an angry Mecha-Christ-zilla?

  • the moother

    If you want to give people hope, then spend that money distributing long-lasting insecticide impregnated mosquito nets to Africa.

  • rhodent

    I fully support letting them build the cross on one condition: It should have a Bible verse printed on it where all can read that verse for greater understanding. But not just any verse: it must specifically be Matthew 6:1

  • JohnnieCanuck

    Well the FAA at least is going to make them put flashing red hazard lights on top of it.

    Seems appropriate.

  • more compost

    Feeding the poor only gives hope to the poor people who get the food. Also, it is hard get tens of thousands of people every day to see how pious you are if you spend you time surrounded by smelly poor people.

  • observer

    Because nothing shows off your humility and love more then 11 stories of “mine’s bigger then yours.”

  • beatonfam

    Effingham stopped at 198 feet because at 200 feet they would be required to put a blinking light warning low flying aircraft. The builders felt that would be a horrible desecration of the cross. For the record, it is “Effing” huge. You can see it for miles. Yes, it is right along the highway.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Mainly used for executing Jewish insurgents. Why don’t they just put a 110 foot gas chamber next to it while they’re at it.

  • Andrew B.

    Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. The Holy Spirit apparently needs to consult local ordinances before choosing a location next time.

    Seriously, this is like someone saying “the holy spirit” led them to build a church next to an active volcano and throwing a shit fit when its construction is denied.

  • June

    One of these big crosses is in a town near where I live. The first time I saw it, I bursted out laughing.

  • Scarlet

    This is about as wonderful as the replacement of the ‘Big Butter/Touchdown Jesus’ on I-75 north of Cincinnati, Ohio. Wasted money there for sure!

  • 3lemenope

    The Holy Spirit is no respecter of local ordinances. Obviously.

  • 3lemenope

    It’s a religious monument that could double as a cell phone tower.

    Funny you should mention that; many parishes have been approached by cell phone companies to put signal repeaters in their steeples. Most say yes; it is good money.

  • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

    Come now, the Romans weren’t so singular in using the crucifix. They’d stick it to anyone that they didn’t like! Jews, early Christians, Gauls, Celts, corrupted politicians, deserters, fellow Romans…

  • Sajanas

    There was the particularly memorable instance of the Romans crucifying every single captured member of Spartacus’s army and lining them up on the path to Rome. Lets not imagine its completely anti-Jewish. In fact, before Constantine took it as his symbol, Romans used the cross to *mock* Christians with the implement they used to kill their god.

  • Nate Frein

    Shouldn’t that be “Mecca”-Christ-zilla?

  • Sajanas

    I love how people seem to think building monuments will bring people to Christ, and even more how people think that building cheap looking big monuments will do it better. I think if you build one really lovely church, you’d a lot more interest than hundreds of cheap huge crosses. All this smacks of people convincing themselves that they’re doing something to avoid dealing with issues that their flock actually wants them to talk about.

  • C Peterson

    Feeding the poor simply keeps more of them alive, or keeps more of them healthy, or keeps more of them happy. None of those things are a priority for Christianity.

  • Everyday Atheist

    Maybe we could interest them in putting up something useful instead, like an electricity-generating wind turbine. Those suckers are around 300 feet tall. And at least 3 times every rotation, it looks enough like a cross to pass in the eyes of people who can spot Jesus in food products.

  • phantomreader42

    By animating the Statue of Liberty?

  • https://agoldstardad.wordpress.com/ Fozzy

    So at what point does this become idol worship?

  • sonofkenny

    I’m wondering how many undernourished kids could be fed for $100K…or how many could be vaccinated…or how many after school programs could be funded? These people sure have their priorities out of whack

  • JWH

    Hm. They’re certainly entitled to petition for a variance, just like any other property owner, religious or secular.

  • Dana McKinney

    Quite pathetic, don’t you think? If you feel you must erect an outdated Roman
    torture device on your church lawn to prove your piety, you’ve got some
    major issues.
    You know, if Jesus were actually real, and he were to return to earth as
    Christians predict, you just know he’d be offended and saddened by all
    the crucifixes everywhere. I know if I were Jesus, that’s the last damn
    thing I’d want to see. Glorifying the death of a man by erecting a
    replica of the torture device used to kill him is sickening. It’s
    just wrong on so many levels.

  • Bob Becker

    I’m sure it will be inspirational. Think of all those whizzing by on the highway who’ll see it and think “Jesus H. Christ, what the hell is that?”

  • Robin

    Does god have a face book page or is he just going to log on long enough to give them his blessing?

  • ShoeUnited

    These kinds of examples sometimes make me wish these people were a little more Catholic. There seems to be a disconnect with these people about cross and torture. Now I’ve had non-RC Xian friends complain to me about how I can (back when I was part of the RCC) pray to a torture device. I think we’d have a lot less of these if they were a crucifix. Especially with the detail most RC crucifixes have (blood coming out of the side hands feet and head etc.).

    Put a little conviction back into your religion. How do I know you’re not putting up a cross for Barabbas? It is an empty cross afterall.

  • http://twitter.com/thom1956 Tom Schott

    Doesn’t this kind of thing violate their Commandment about ‘graven images’? Not that christians give a flying fuck about their “commandments”, but still –

  • The Other Weirdo

    It’s not even a respecter of basic human dignity and autonomy.

  • Oranje

    How does he know those 92,000 drivers need hope and inspiration? Maybe they just need a rest area with really good vending machines.

  • Robin

    Its still there and they have built a mound with 3 smaller crosses on it and a building that looks like a church of sorts and people are alway stopping a taking pictures. Its not to far from the smelly cow place. I see it every time I go to visit my mother and travel from arizona to st louis. Its on interstate 40

  • Oranje

    And there’s your next hybrid reality show: Flava of God.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Because when you’re unhappy, it seems like everybody else must also be unhappy, damn it them.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    You left out that the city planning commission offered as a compromise to approve a fifty-foot cross (this despite the fact that local law only permits “auxiliary structures” of twenty feet in height), but the pastor wouldn’t go for that: “Our problem with that is that we want to make an impact. We want to make a statement. And it’s on church property.” This certainly doesn’t look like “persecution” to me, just a bunch of people trying to raise a ruckus in order to get around a reasonable compromise and force the city planning commission’s hand.

  • Robin

    Sounds like a really nice place to vacation, except if they put up that stupid cross.

  • Robin

    “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

  • Name

    Its just goofy and embarrassing IMO. Side note when I used to drive across the country if I got there in the wee hours I’d stop at the one on 40 in texas and burn one. Seemed as good a spot as any to relax where highway patrol would look at less with less suspicion.

  • Robin

    If this jesus looked down and saw all the crosses he would probably think they were made to kill him again if he were to return “in the flesh”. Hey, NO WONDER he hasn’t come back.

  • mikespeir

    Seeing a big, honkin’ cross while driving down the freeway gives people hope?

  • Art_Vandelay

    I guess to your point, the Nazis didn’t only stick it to Jews.

  • bananafaced

    It is a really good place to visit. Jackson, MS is 15 min away with lots of historical and educational spots. And there are several NEW hotels built in anticipation of the enormous outlet mall opening. Ross Barnett Reservoir (the Rez) is huge if you are into boating and water sports. MS is also a great place to live, very affordable. Of course, with that comes the religious and evangelical component. I am a closet agnostic and I get through each day with having to listen to only a few “have a blessed day” greetings…so far.

  • ShoeUnited

    I hope that foundation is good enough that that monstrosity doesn’t fall onto me while I’m driving past it.

  • bananafaced

    Hear, Hear!!!!

  • Name

    ack! people use that as an email signature at work

  • johnlev

    I’m glad SOMEONE had the common sense to say NO! to this. I have to stare at these damn eyesore’s everytime I go down I-81 in Virginia. In one spot, they’ve placed them so you have to stare right at it for a mile until you go around the bend. 81/66 intersection.

  • Stev84

    The survivors of the Spartacus rebellion (aka the Third Servile War) were famously crucified along the Via Appia. Six thousand of them.

  • Carpinions

    Well, it certainly gives Pastor Thomas hope that he can grow his market-er-I mean flock.

  • Stev84

    Their role goal is to gain new followers to give money. They don’t really care about anyone else.

  • observer

    “You’re using my religion to limit my religious rights!!”

  • Mick

    They probably considered an acceptable 20 foot cross, but then decided on the 110 foot monstrosity, knowing that it would be rejected and thus giving them a chance to play at being martyrs to the cause. The church board will soon be encouraging the mugs in the pews to donate to a “fighting fund” and they will be able to make money out of the idea for years to come; maybe even decades.

  • madphd

    That or they are compensating for something…

  • 7Footpiper

    I’d settle with letting atheist groups decorate it for all holidays.

  • Bob Becker

    Call it a prayer wheel instead of a wind turbine and xians will rally behind you.

  • bananafaced

    I’d rather visit Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, TX. There I can worship the brilliance of General Motors.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Oh, no, that was quite different. The Romans didn’t single out Jews for special persecution, but treated them as any other conquered territory. It wasn’t even a terribly badly governed one, according to the records we have. Jews were seen as non-citizens, sure, but still as people.

    Nazis went out of their way to try to murder and destroy Jews as a people; they called them rats and saw them as such. If the Romans had wanted to snuff out Judaism, they probably could have, but they really weren’t interested. Hitler was very interested indeed in destroying Judaism.

  • b s

    “It’s a religious monument that could double as a cell phone tower.”

    Can you hear my prayer now? Still no?

  • tnskeptic

    Ha! What a woosie monument! Look at what a mega church put up here in my town of Memphis Tennessee. http://img.groundspeak.com/waymarking/display/0936aa89-84dd-4314-b1db-4272f07ee180.jpg

  • Fentwin

    Maybe a 109′ stuffed Easter Bunny doll?

  • Rev. Achron Timeless

    Cadillac Ranch was actually kinda cool. Also the weird art “road signs” all around Amarillo. Unfortunately my memory card got damaged (thus losing the pictures), so the only one I remember was on some dead end residential street with an angel on it saying “The Demon Of Virginity” as if it were warning you that the bridge was out or something.

  • b s

    I just had a vision of a turbine/cross hybrid with Jesus’ arms as the blades playing guitar, doing a Pete Townshend windmill. THAT would be a tourist attraction.

  • WallofSleep

    I say let them build it, and when it becomes a weather worn eye-sore, then the people of Brandon will get to see how much it costs to maintain 110 feet of roadside hope.

  • Fentwin

    Who needs zoning laws, build these monstrosities in Texas and you can then store tons of explosive fertilizer as well. Maybe even next to a day care or retirement home.

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    Feeding the poor is in their book and they like to talk about it but not do anything about it.
    The tenets of Christianity are like corporate mission statements. They are the things you like to be visible and have people associate with you but have no intention of upholding.

  • baal

    They’d probably teach their followers how to eat a diet that gave you bowel obstruction.

  • baal

    Shiva worship can include oiling the giant stone penis effigy.

  • C Peterson

    It’s not that Christianity opposes feeding the poor. It’s simply that anything that improves temporal lives is secondary to the primary goal of the religion, which is dying with the proper beliefs.

  • SansDeus

    Is the one in the picture made of aluminum siding?

  • Todd Stiefel

    I’m having great fun today planning wonderful things to do to counter the “compromise” the mayor wants for the Brandon Cross. Stay tuned. More next week. Brandon is going to freak out when they are forced to not play favorites.

  • The Irish Atheist

    Well, there’s nothing that gives me hope quite like a gigantic replica of an ancient torture device. That’s why I’ve got a 60 foot Iron Maiden in my backyard. It also keeps the local kids out of my pool.

  • b s

    A 60 foot Bruce Dickinson et. al?

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Replacing the torch of liberty with a torture device…

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    While only having to bother actually going to court once a year or so. Good gig.

  • Lee Miller

    It’s already idle worship.

  • Lee Miller

    If they put some really clean bathrooms in it, I’m all for it.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Thanks. I concede this wasn’t a great analogy.

  • Lurker111

    “this is like someone saying ‘the holy spirit’ led them to build a church next to an active volcano”

    Actually, I’d like to see that.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Now see, it’s a known that giant novelty-sized things are only interesting because they’re ridiculous, while smaller-than-a-regular-sized-things things are cuter and more endurably interesting.

    Therefore, they should be striving to build the smallest possible crosses, in order to attract more attention.

    Okay, fine, I just want to see a highway sign advertising, “WORLDS SMALLEST CROSS” with an arrow pointing at the ground, and there’s not actually anything there.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Very Metal. So to speak.

  • The Irish Atheist

    *Points at self* Too young to get reference. Had to look that one up.

  • 7Footpiper

    Turns out Jesus still has the hump about it!


  • Lori F


  • Lori F

    They’re more like guidelines. [says Capt. Barbosa]

  • ZenDruid

    Big enough to crucify God.

  • allein

    30 feet taller than everything around it isn’t visible enough?

  • closetatheist

    Really, this is to be expected from this particular deity. Its totally in his character to incite his followers to break the laws that govern and protect themselves and others so they can scream about persecution and then feel super special righteous. In fact, if they had built this cross somewhere where it would have been allowed, I’d be willing to wager a bet that they weren’t even inspired by the Holy Spirit at all.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    It makes me think of Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time”: “And I will pray to a big God, as I kneel in the big church.” With a REALLY big cross!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    “92,000 cars a day travel along the Interstate 20 corridor. Those are people who need hope, who need inspiration.”

    The cross is nothing but advertising for that church. If they really want to give the motorists on I-20 what they actually need, use the money to build a nice, clean rest stop with a coffee shop and staff it with people who can accurately direct the lost travelers to their destination.

  • A3Kr0n

    That’s just like the 60′ piece of shit cross we just got fucking blessed with.

  • BrowncoatVoter

    Quarter stick of dynamite at the base should do it. No one should do that, I’m just saying.

  • BrowncoatVoter


  • Glasofruix

    Christian thinking…

  • GubbaBumpkin

    The Romans were not incensed that the Jews were “Jesus-killers.”

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Matthew 26:11

  • GubbaBumpkin

    I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around.

    Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson,

    Look out Jackson town.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    I … really hope you’re being very sarcastic. Or tying things back to German anti-Semitism?

  • Mario Strada

    I have some ideas too, but they are mostly juvenile fantasies involving body parts :)

    Thank you Todd for all the good work you do. I’ll be looking forward to see what you come up with.

  • starskeptic

    btw – the cross pic in the post IS of the Effingham cross.

  • iamgog

    Certainly. There’s too much greenery for it to be the Groom, Texas cross.

  • Jane Williams

    Their web page has the comment:

    “Don Hartness All for the Cross. Have seen these in various states and it is heart-warming to see at night. We were founded on Christian principles and we have taken our Savior from everything in public. It’s time to take a stand.”

    A reply to that comment was:
    “Treaty of Tripoli
    Under President John Adams, the U.S. Senate ratified it
    unanimously on June 7, 1797 and signed by Adams, took effect as the law of the
    land on June 10, 1797.
    Read article 11, which begins with: “As the
    Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the
    Christian religion,”

    The reply was deleted. Those christians don’t like actual American history.

  • baump

    If I was Christian, I would hope my god would know the zoning laws in a locale before sending my minions to erect a giant cross.

  • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

    If it’s 9 storeys taller than everything else in town, odds are it’ll meet the same fate as the original Touchdown Jesus.

    If they actually win their zoning variance, I hope they build the ghastly thing well away from any non-church buildings so that nothing else gets damaged if when it takes a lightning strike.

  • Robster

    There’s plenty of alternate torture devices they could install on the site, smaller but still as horrifying as their cross. But they’re missing the opportunity to dangle a huge jesus off the cross like is found in churches just about everywhere. They could put LED lights in the nails in the jesus to attract attention and instead of a Roman sword why not have a Lightsabre sticking out the side of the giant jesus? That’d get the kids in and that’s what they really need.

  • Whirlwitch

    My wife runs an ISP over a large stretch of rural area, on a shoestring budget. Finding people willing to host repeater stations is of importance. She approached the local Baptist church, the steeple of which is the tallest structure in our village, about allowing a radio on the steeple. They declined, unless she could obtain a radio in the form of a cross. Our house is across from the church. We now have a brand new tower behind our house, taller than the steeple. Along with the various radios and suchlike slated to be placed upon it, there will be a 14-inch pentacle of woven wire made by myself. Just a subtle touch of mischief. :)

  • Intelligent Donkey

    Just tell them how many bibles they could give to the poor starving children in Africa for that money. That’ll make them rethink it.

  • Brian

    But does it have ziplines?

  • https://agoldstardad.wordpress.com/ Fozzy

    Don’t tell them that.. it only confuses them

  • longstreet63

    There’s one of those in downstate Illinois by the Interstate. Can’t recall if it’s i-70 or i-74. Certainly there’s nothing else to see out there.
    Honestly, these things have an industrial quality that I can’t imagine providing any actual solace to anyone. Not nearly the personality of, say, Touchdown Jesus in Ohio.
    On a par with the Wolrd’s Largest Ball of String.

  • Guest

    They’re withdrawing the cross now.

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    Post by Cross at Brandon.

  • Korihor DeZarahemla

    They’re withdrawing the cross now.

  • Regina Carol Moore

    If churches were interested in helping people, they’d take the money for huge crosses and feed homeless people.