The cross's purpose: government must focus on secular, not sacred.


Americans United has been working in the city of Grand Haven, Mich., to persuade municipal officials to stop displaying a large cross on a prominent hillside.

The cross, which is attached to a hydraulic lift, isn't displayed year round, but it is put up on special occasions. This is done at the local government's discretion, and it's paid for with taxpayer funds.

AU worked with local residents to put a stop to this. Following some negotiations, the city decided to modify the cross and turn it into an anchor. The city, which sits on the shore of Lake Michigan, has historic ties to the U.S. Coast Guard, so the move makes sense.

But not everyone is happy. The Rev. Dan Smith, a Baptist minister in nearby Ravenna, wrote to the Muskegon Chronicle to complain about the turn of events. Smith even raised the old saw that the Founding Fathers sought freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

Smith's solution is for local residents to display lighted crosses on their front lawns. This, he claims, will "defy this attempt to secularize our great Judeo-Christian heritage and foundations."

The mindset here is typical of Religious Right activists. They fail to understand that Americans United's objection is not to the cross as a religious object but to its appropriation and sponsorship by government.

Supporters of separation of church and state are not vampires. They can tolerate looking at a cross. But when that cross is displayed by government on public...

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