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Jul 20 2012

Another Controversy Over Cross on Public Land

Yet another town is finding itself in a bind after using public land to display an overtly Christian symbol, this time a 26 foot tall cross that says “Jesus saves” on public property near the sign welcoming people to Dugger, Indiana. Americans United is threatening a suit and the city council seems to want to back down:

On Monday night, the Town Council informed the people of Dugger that something had to be done about the cross because somebody had issued a formal complaint. It wasn’t so much what was on the cross as what it was on — public property.

Two years ago, with the blessing of the Town Council, the cross was erected on the piece of land owned by the town, just a few feet from the Welcome to Duggar sign…

The group said it was also concerned that the cross was so close to the sign for Union High, which “would only strengthen the affiliation between the Town and Christianity.” The group also took issue with an apparent plan for the town to pay for the electricity to keep the cross lit at night.

All this amounts to what is no less grave than a violation of the United States Constitution — the Establishment Clause, to be exact. The letter’s writers quoted founding father James Madison to make their point.

The town of Dugger doesn’t have the cash to fight this in court, said Council President Dwight Nielson. Nor would it likely win.

Nielson plans to comply with the letter, though exactly how is unclear at the moment.

The solution is simple: Put the cross on private property, where it belongs. There are undoubtedly many churches in Dugger and that is where such a sign belongs. But of course, the locals are all fired up for a fight and making the usual stupid and hypocritical arguments:

When word got around Tuesday that an Indianapolis Star reporter was coming to town to write about the situation, more than 40 people showed up at the cross for the occasion. They brought white tents and water bottles. One girl wore a shirt that said “Better saved than sorry.”

They held hands and formed a prayer circle around the cross. “We’re asking you, Father God, for a voice from heaven, Father, to know if this is a time to stand and fight, Father God,” said the first man to speak, Trevis Pinkston. “Father God, we need to know now, Father God.” His speech was met with a rousing “Amen.”

Dan Dyer, pastor of the nearby Whosoever Will Full Gospel Church, told The Star he was here because he felt it was a threat. “We also believe our republic was founded upon Christian foundations,” he said, asking why this was a problem, when the Ten Commandments are shown prominently at the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington.

Because the Ten Commandments is shown along with lots of other ancient legal sources; the frieze on which it appears includes a number of religious and secular lawgivers. Thus there is no endorsement, as there is here.

That article mentioned the possible constitutional issues. It also quoted Bill Pirtle, who was Town Council president back in 2010 and a supporter of putting the cross on public property.

“As I understand it,” Pirtle said in the article, “the town of Dugger owns the property — and it’s just like putting it in our yard.”

Uh, no. It’s not. Not even close. Is he really so clueless as to not grasp the difference between public and private property?

“It ain’t hurting nobody,” said Charles Hay, the man who approached the Town Council in the first place. “If you’re not for it, don’t look at it.”

Right. And if they decided to put up a star and crescent with the message “Allah saves” on it, I’m sure you’d say the same thing, right? Right? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

30 comments

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  1. 1
    oranje

    Is saying “Father God” the same as “Simon Says” for Trevis?

  2. 2
    eric

    The solution is simple: Put the cross on private property, where it belongs.

    And don’t use tax money to light the thing, either!

    “We’re asking you, Father God, for a voice from heaven, Father, to know if this is a time to stand and fight, Father God,” said the first man to speak, Trevis Pinkston. “Father God, we need to know now, Father God.”

    I guess the irony of repeatedly requesting the same thing from an omnipotent, omniscent deity escapes him.

    Hey dude, if he planned on answering you, he would’ve done it after the zeroeth request.

  3. 3
    Modusoperandi

    “And if they decided to put up a star and crescent with the message ‘Allah saves’ on it, I’m sure you’d say the same thing, right? Right? Yeah, I didn’t think so.”

    That’s totally different. Because it would never happen.

  4. 4
    Modusoperandi

    Eric “I guess the irony of repeatedly requesting the same thing from an omnipotent, omniscent deity escapes him.”
    Do you know what God finds under the tree on Christmas morning? Omnipresents!

  5. 5
    Michael Heath

    Dan Dyer, pastor of the nearby Whosoever Will Full Gospel Church, told The Star he was here because he felt it was a threat. “We also believe our republic was founded upon Christian foundations,” he said.

    The use of the word ‘believe’ in this context is exactly why I’ve discarded with my own use of it. It seems to increasingly be used to mean a conclusion a person realizes is indefensible but will maintain anyway and may also promote others concede to as well.

    People who use this word in the public square also seem to be requesting their position be respected as a legitimate one just like a position based on true premises, while also signaling they have no appetite or ability to competently defend their belief. Therefore I generally find the promotion of beliefs to be a failure of character, equal in failure to the juvenile quality of using faith to take a position. The usage here to promote a false history by Mr. Dyer vividly illustrates why I take this position.

  6. 6
    jws1

    Predictably the comments in the Indy Star article are highly entertaining. Lessons in how not to think.

  7. 7
    John Pieret

    Bonham, the cross’ creator, said he’d like to see the faces of those who raised issue with the cross on judgment day. “Because,” he said, “they are to be judged for it.”

    But … but … Jesus said “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s …”

    Oh, right! … They don’t actually read that book.

  8. 8
    btown1987

    Indiana is a bastion of Christian faith. I have lived here nearly all of my life here. I remember in high school our football coach would lead us all in the “Lord’s Prayer” before and after every game. The soccer coach was a local minister, and while I did not realize it at the time, everyone on the soccer team attended his church there were no students who attended other churches. My junior high principle was a minister as well and constantly talked about god when he would address us. The only time we were ever ‘taught’ about evolution was in church. I remember being in youth group and the minister (the soccer coach) handing us a picture of Richard Dawkins and telling us to never read his books or we would go to hell. At the time I was a Christian and didn’t think anything of it. When I finally became educated in college I gave Christianity up. Looking back I don’t know what I would have done if I were an Atheist. Having seen what happened to Jessica Ahlquist I probably would have kept my mouth shut.

  9. 9
    busterggi

    Anyone else notice that Christians and male cats in heat both go crazy trying to mark all territory as their own?

  10. 10
    eamick

    Uh, no. It’s not. Not even close. Is he really so clueless as to not grasp the difference between public and private property?

    Quite possibly. Next you’re going to expect a former member of the Town Council to know something about the state and federal constitutions, never mind his own town’s ordinances. What is wrong with you?

  11. 11
    d cwilson

    People who use this word in the public square also seem to be requesting their position be respected as a legitimate one just like a position based on true premises, while also signaling they have no appetite or ability to competently defend their belief.

    It’s more than just wanting it to be respected. They want their belief to be the predominant view. This is why they absolutely cannot stand it unless all authorities bow down to it. Part of their authoritarian mindset is that all authority must stem from Jeebus. They need the myth that the Constitution was based on the babble to be true, because if it isn’t, then they would have to admit that there is an authority in this world that doesn’t come from Jeebus.

  12. 12
    Bronze Dog

    It’s more than just wanting it to be respected. They want their belief to be the predominant view. This is why they absolutely cannot stand it unless all authorities bow down to it. Part of their authoritarian mindset is that all authority must stem from Jeebus. They need the myth that the Constitution was based on the babble to be true, because if it isn’t, then they would have to admit that there is an authority in this world that doesn’t come from Jeebus.

    It’s a disturbing thing I also see in them. So many of these people just seem hardwired for authoritarianism. There must be some ultimate authority to spare them the labor of thinking for themselves, and every competing authority must be made subservient to theirs. Governments don’t exist to serve the people’s needs, people exist to serve the whims of the top authority.

    In a way, it’s like they think life is a civ game where the one and only winning condition is subjugating the whole map. There is only dominance and submission, never cooperation, compromise, or peaceful coexistence.

  13. 13
    wscott

    And if they decided to put up a star and crescent with the message “Allah saves” on it, I’m sure you’d say the same thing, right? Right?

    Actually, I do know some right-wingers whose answer would be “That would be fine, but then I would move away.” It’s basically rights by majority rule. That’s part of why they’re so opposed to immigration by Muslims (or anyone else Not Us), because they think the government should reflect & promote the beliefs/values of the majority. Sounds like a crap-tastically awful idea to me, as well as blatantly unconstitutional; but at least they’re not inconsistent.

    Sorry, I seem to be stuck on Devil’s Advocate Mode today.

  14. 14
    hunter

    Bronze Dog @ 12:

    Authoritarian, of course: the whole set-up for what Joseph W. Campbell called “the desert religions” is authoritarian and patriarchal. God is the ultimate authority, and you can’t argue with God (just look at what happened to those who tried). Nor can you disobey. The whole emphasis is on obedience and subservience. It’s not for nothing that Christianity was known as the religion of slaves.

  15. 15
    como

    I share the outrage, but what is to stop the town of Dugger from de-annexing that very small plot of land on which the cross is already planted (10 sq ft?) and selling it to a local church?

  16. 16
    Mark Sherry

    I share the outrage, but what is to stop the town of Dugger from de-annexing that very small plot of land on which the cross is already planted (10 sq ft?) and selling it to a local church?

    Probably nothing if they do it in above-board manner. If they sell the plot in a public auction, I don’t think there would be any grounds for complaint, since *any* group could have purchased it if they desired, and the city can’t be accused of giving the purchaser a sweet-heart deal.

    It does give the church group a bit of an advantage (the cross is already there, and it’s unlikely that the city would have kept around any other religious symbols on public land long enough for an establishment issue to be raised), but a speculator could buy up the land with the intent of reselling it to the church group if they feel the going price is too low.

    If I recall, similar disputes in the past have been solved by selling the land. It’s not the ideal solution (see above), but it’s better than just leaving it public land with a cross.

  17. 17
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    They need the myth that the Constitution was based on the babble to be true, because if it isn’t, then they would have to admit that there is an authority in this world that doesn’t come from Jeebus.

    Well, according to their mythology, all government authority is established by God in every country. (Romans 13:1-7. In a nutshell, it states that all government authority everywhere is established by god so you should always obey it. Or else. Much lulz to the Christian who told me last week, BTW, that the bible wasn’t authoritarian.)

    The problem they are running into is that they are trying to prove it with evidence. Which they can’t, so they have to make stuff up. If they were real christians, they would just accept on faith that what the bible said is true and shut up about it – but of course, there aren’t any real christians.

  18. 18
    thisisaturingtest

    Because the Ten Commandments is shown along with lots of other ancient legal sources; the frieze on which it appears includes a number of religious and secular lawgivers. Thus there is no endorsement, as there is here.

    C’mon, Ed- you don’t really expect these folks to use or understand context, do you? One thing I’ve noticed as a common motif in this type of thinking is that it’s done in a vacuum; whether it’s Christian dominionists, birthers, truthers, whatever- no piece of evidence is ever seen as a part of a whole that must be considered to give it a context that might change their perception of the evidence.

  19. 19
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    no piece of evidence is ever seen as a part of a whole that must be considered to give it a context that might change their perception of the evidence.

    I disagree – these types certainly are capable of understanding context when it suits their purpose. Ask any fundamentalist about whether or not Jesus REALLY meant to tell all his followers to give away their worldly possessions.

    Once again, the problem is not that they do not understand. The problem is that they do not like the answer, so they ignore it. Sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

  20. 20
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    Wow that was a pretty impressive blockquote-bork.

  21. 21
    Dr X

    What ever happened to “kick the dust from your feet and move on?”

  22. 22
    Abby Normal

    I wonder how these same people who want the cross to remain would feel about changing the badge worn by law enforcement from a star or shield to a cross. I’d like to think most of them would quickly see the wisdom of keeping church and government separate. But I’m not sure how realistic that thought is.

    I mean that, I couldn’t begin to put a number on it. So now I’m thinking about trying it in my town just to see how people react. I bet I could even find some local churches to foot the bill for an exploratory poll. Then again, do I really want to put this idea in people’s heads? It’d be just my luck to inadvertently set off the next wingnut crusade.

  23. 23
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    The group also took issue with an apparent plan for the town to pay for the electricity to keep the cross lit at night.

    Great. (Sarcastic usage.)

    They would have to go for the light pollution plus unnecessary power generation contribution to Global Overheating double wouldn’t they? Plus add in the whole Church-state separation breeach for a hat-trick of wrong.

    “It ain’t hurting nobody,” said Charles Hay, the man who approached the Town Council in the first place. “If you’re not for it, don’t look at it.”

    Doesn’t that also apply to atheist billboards?

    Also about that “not hurting nobody” line – see above about light pollution which is / would be harming astronomers and anyone wanting to look at the night skies plus Human Induced Rapid Global Overheating (HIRGO) hurting us (mostly) all. Okay, maybe this Duggar Cross ain’t ahuge contributor to either but it sure ain’t helping!

    Hope they at least turn it off at night saving money, skies and pollution.

  24. 24
    cactuswren

    oranje @ 1:

    Is saying “Father God” the same as “Simon Says” for Trevis?

    That’s a particular style of spontaneous, and thus “genuine”, Protestant prayer: “Lord, we thank you, Lord, for your blessings, and Lord, we ask you, Lord, to look down on us with your favor, Lord … ” Apparently if you stop talking for an instant that severs the connection.

  25. 25
    John Phillips, FCD

    cactuswren, lord in this context is obviously a ping or keepalive signal. With so many maroons bothering him all the time, the signals to him probably suffers a lot of packet loss.

  26. 26
    democommie

    I would have a smidgeon of respect for the fundiepublicans if they would USE that fucking cross for the intended purpose and elect one of theirs, say the braindead fuckhead who allowed this, to be their scapegoat and expiate their sins by his self-sacrifice. I’m guessing that WOULD be a fuckin’ miracle.

  27. 27
    skinnercitycyclist

    This use of the term “Father God” is highly annoying, and in my mind seems recent (last 5-10 years). Are they trying to highlight patriarchal tendencies? Also, is there a “Mother God”? Maybe a “Second Cousin Who Doesn’t Get Invited to Thanksgiving Dinner God”?

  28. 28
    feralboy12

    This use of the term “Father God” is highly annoying, and in my mind seems recent (last 5-10 years). Are they trying to highlight patriarchal tendencies?

    Yes. Yes, they are.
    And “God Father” has too many troubling connotations.

  29. 29
    Michael Heath

    skinnercitycyclist:

    This use of the term “Father God” is highly annoying, and in my mind seems recent (last 5-10 years).

    It’s been around since at least the early 1970s, where I heard it used ad nauseam back in that period.

    It remains particularly popular as a way to open prayer; e.g., “Dear father God”. I always found such prayers to be a moronic inadvertent yet compelling argument against the idea trinitarians are monotheists in practice, contra their claims. Especially since those prayers almost invariably end with, ” . . . in Jesus’ name, Amen”.

  30. 30
    Rip Steakface

    A possible way to rectify the situation: let the cross remain, but install stadium-sized concert monitors and blast this song on repeat on all hours of the day.

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