Group asks for removal of La Crescent cross - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Group asks for removal of La Crescent cross

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A longtime La Crescent landmark, the La Crescent cross and star, is now at the center of attention.

A group dedicated to keeping religious monuments off government owned property wants the display taken down. The Cross and star has been a staple in the community for over forty years.

Around Christmastime, the star illuminates the bluffs of La Crescent and by Easter, it lights up in the shape of cross.

"The star and the cross is saying that this is a good, clean, vibrant community. Even if they don't believe in it they see it as a positive," Dewey Severson, Treasurer of the La Crescent Lions Club said.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation based in Madison claims cross that sits on city land violates is unconstitutional.

"A religious symbol on public property gives the appearance of promoting religion," Cheryl Gill, Attorney at Johns, Flaherty & Collins said.

"Religious displays as such I don't have objections to. I just think that there's appropriate places for those religious displays and putting them on public land is inappropriate," Hank Zumach, a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation said.

The group is asking the city to remove the cross.

The Lions Club which maintains and pays the cross's maintenance and electricity says they'll do everything in their power to keep it there.

"We're open to do what we need to maintain something that the community wants. And the community, in my dealing with people want it to stay," Severson said.

A similar incident arose in the City of La Crosse about a decade ago.

The Ten Commandments statue that sits in Cameron park is now fenced off. The Eagles Club bought the plot of land that it sit on in order to keep it there.

Now La Crescent Lions Clubs is considering their options.

"If we need to purchase, I have people who are ready to purchase," Severson said.

But Zumach said selling the property to a private entity is dishonest.

"Selling off a few square feet of public land to try to bypass the United States Constitution is wrong," Zumach said.

Severson said the majority of La Crescent residents want the cross to stay. "The majority of people in this community will be upset."

But Gill contested just because the majority of people want something does not make it constitutional. She said moving forward, The city of La Crescent needs to decide what's best for the community as whole, keeping in mind both the values of their residents as well as the cost of pursuing legal action in a situation.
This dispute has not yet come to a lawsuit. But Gill said if it does, it's likely the City of La Crescent would lose.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said they hope to avoid any legal action.

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