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California Town Tears Down Cross

Pacific Justice Institute
April 12, 2024

ALBANY, Calif., April 12, 2024 /Christian Newswire/ -- Over 50 years ago, a devout Christian and member of the Albany Lions Club asked the Club to fabricate a large lighted steel and plexiglass cross on his private land and maintain it in perpetuity. The cross was constructed and dedicated on Easter 1971. Since its construction the Lions Club has lighted the cross during the Christmas and Easter seasons and arranged for Easter morning sunrise services at the cross. When lighted, the cross is visible for miles, sending its message of God’s love and as a comfort to the Christian community. The cross is also a location where members of the community can come, pray, meet others in Christian fellowship and which has hosted: weddings, baby dedications, and memorial services for the community.

There were no objections to the cross, its lighting or the associated religious activities at the cross until 2016, when an atheist group raised a complaint and convinced the Albany City Council to take up the cause of removing the cross. The City Council held public hearings condemning the cross, asked the Lions Club to voluntarily remove the cross and offered to purchase the easement. When these efforts failed the City engaged in a campaign of harassment, which included disconnecting the electrical utility service to the cross. The service was restored less than four months later but the harassment continued, with the City Council vowing to explore every avenue to remove the cross.

The City's latest action to remove the cross is the filing of a condemnation action claiming, that the cross is "possibly" a First Amendment Establishment Clause problem. The Albany Lions Club has asserted its Constitutional rights to Free Exercise of Religion and Free Speech and is contesting the City's condemnation of the cross.

In a January 29, 2024 decision, an Alameda County Superior Court Judge approved the removal of the cross on Albany Hill, holding that the Lions Club cannot assert a Free Exercise of Religion claim because "The Lions Club has not shown that its organizational purpose, its mission, involves promoting religious activities." Apparently, according to the Court, only a church or religious group has a right to free exercise of religion. The Court goes on to declare that the City's "taking of the easement and removing the cross from public property does not violate the Lions Club's Free Exercise rights." The Court further states "The Lions Club cites no authority for the proposition that it has a right to speech [display of a symbol which sends the message of God's love] in a manner that violates the Establishment Clause." However, the Court failed to recognize the Lions Club had a property right to display the cross, a right which the City recognized when it acquired the land and which was previously recognized by the California Supreme Court.

Brad Dacus the President and Founder of Pacific Justice Institute has added that, "The first amendment of the constitution protects individuals and private entities from such blatant state hostility to those wishing to express symbols of faith and hope. We at PJI are committed to defending such constitutionally protected expression."

The Albany Lions' Club with the support and assistance of the Pacific Justice Institute is fighting in court  to right this wrong.

SOURCE Pacific Justice Institute

CONTACT: 916-616-4126