A town in central Kansas that was founded more than 100 years ago by immigrants escaping religious persecution — is once again facing religious persecution.
The tiny town of Buhler is being forced to remove a religious cross from its town seal after a group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained that the symbol violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The group said the cross indicated government endorsement of Christianity.
Mayor Daniel Friesen told Fox News that concerns over the lawsuit were the deciding factor in removing the cross and redesigning the seal.
“If we would have been sued, we would likely lose,” he said. “It’s not an issue of appeasing this fringe group. It’s a matter of protecting the community of Buhler from this organization. We’ve got to take the high road.”
Friesen said it was a matter of economics – and would be a waste of taxpayer money.
“We are frustrated,” he said. “Regardless of the decision we made, we think there’s going to be some good things to come out of it. Our community is too strong and we are too good to let this thing have a negative impact on our community.”
The mayor said the town seal was the result of a competition held in 1988 to mark Buhler’s centennial. The town of 1,350 people was founded by Mennonite immigrants who were seeking refuge from religious persecution.
The irony is not lost on the mayor.
“It’s a faith-based community — always has been,” he said. “The community has never pushed (their faith) on anybody else – but they felt the cross was a good representation.”
Residents were informed of the city’s decision by email.
“I believe I can speak for all of the members of the city council in saying that on a personal level we are utterly disappointed and frustrated by this matter,” the mayor wrote. “We recognize the significant and important history reflected in the current city seal and certainly want to do nothing to forget this history. At the same time, we as city leaders took an oath to uphold the Constitution. These same Constitutional rights which drew the first settlers to Buhler bring these changes to our city seal today.”
The mayor told Fox News he understands their frustrations and called it justifiable.
“A lot of people feel like the rich history of Buhler is being stomped on,” he said. “I know it disappoints some people but there are other ways to deal with this.”
With reporting from Associated Press