HOLLISTON, MA - For nearly 70 years, a cross erected on the top of the hose tower at the Central Street Fire Station served as a beacon of the Christmas season. But that changed in 2004 when the Holliston Board of Selectmen ordered the cross removed over fears of a lawsuit.
"Signs of the season are fine," Selectmen Chairman Andy Porter told the local newspaper. "But a cross is a symbol of religion versus a symbol of a holiday." Porter did not return repeated requests for an interview.
But that wasn't good enough for the firefighters who argued that the cross was a cherished tradition within the volunteer department. So over the past few years, firefighter Gregg Lewis said they've been conducting a sort of covert operation - erecting the cross - and then taking it down once someone complained.
This year, Lewis decided to make it official. He appealed to the Board of Selectmen for permission to legally resume the fire department's longtime tradition. A decision could be reached next week.
In the meantime, the firefighters said they are frustrated by the lack of respect for the cross and what it means to the volunteers.
"A lot of history, a lot of tradition with the cross," Lt. Mark Dellicker told FOX News Radio. "It's been handed down from generation to generation. We feel like we're letting all of the past firefighters down by letting it go. We're not trying to offend anybody, but it means a lot to us."
Not everyone, one. The firefighters said there was one complaint filed and that led to the trouble.
"We talked to the guy," Dellicker said. "It (the cross) offended him for whatever reason. One out of 14,000 - we aren't doing too bad."
Holliston Rabbi Earl Kideckel told FOX News Radio he supports the Selectmen's initial decision. "We are appreciative of the town and its accepting the reality of what the law is. At the same time we do understand the perspective of the community. We're really very much in support of everyone being able to enjoy their own perspective on religion.
Dellicker said it doesn't have anything to do with politics or religion, although he acknowledged the cross has a deeper meaning in his life.
"When we go into a fire, we say prayers and we hope that everyone is safe," he said. "And this is all part of it. Maybe the next thing is we can't even say prayers to our fellow firemen. I don't know where it's going to lead next."
Scott Foster is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Holliston. He's worried that the meaning behind the symbols of the season could get lost in the political battles.
"I never cease to be surprised at how much controversy comes up over displaying religious symbols," he said, noting that it seems Christians are singled out "a little bit more" than other religions.
It remains to be seen if town leaders will reverse their decision next week - but for now - the cross that once illuminated the night sky over the Central Street Fire Station - remains dark.
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