A Boston attorney is demanding that a Massachusetts town remove a 53-year-old cross from a traffic island because it overhangs a state right-of-way by approximately six inches and therefore he claims it represents a violation of the separation of church and state.
The cross was erected by the Middleboro Kiwanis Club in 1959. The 12-foot statue is made of brick and includes the word “worship”. It serves as an unofficial welcome sign for travelers entering Middleboro along Route 28.
A spokesperson for the Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation confirmed to Fox News Radio that the attorney supplied photographs of the “religious symbol” and filed a complaint demanding that the cross be removed.
State officials reviewed the matter and determined that one arm of the cross overhangs the state right of way by about six inches.
“MassDOT engineers determined that the cross does not pose a safety hazard,” the spokesperson said, noting they have offered to assist the town in relocating the cross off public property.
Al Rullo, chairman of the Middleboro Board of Selectmen, told Fox News Radio that the statue is actually anchored on town property – and said he’s dumbfounded that someone would have a problem.
“We don’t think it’s offensive to anyone,” he said. “This is not hurting or embarrassing anybody.”
The American Civil Liberties Union told television station WBZ that even if a fraction of the cross was on state property it would violate church and state separation laws. The ACLU told the television station that there are two options – either remove the cross or open up the traffic island to all forms of expression.
Rullo said the state has not officially contacted the town – so for now – the cross is staying put.
“That cross has been there for 53 years,” he said. “It’s fairly generic in nature. It doesn’t specify one religion over another. It just has the word worship on it.”
Local residents are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the cross — and many believe the attorney is just making a mountain out of a mole hill.
“I’m not a Constitutional lawyer, but this issue of separation of church and state has been carried to an extreme,” Rullo said. “The government can’t give preferential treatment to one religion over another. They didn’t want a state sponsored religion.”
He said the Kiwanis Cross does not constitute a state-sponsored religion.
“As far as I’m concerned, local policy has never been influenced by the presence of that cross,” he said. “Local policy has never favored one religion over another.”