A federal court has ordered a Florida city not to erect a cross on its water tower.
In his March 19 ruling, U.S. District Judge John H. Moore II concluded that a lighted, 10-foot-high cross could not be displayed on top of the City of Starke’s municipal water tower. The power plant’s superintendent ordered the posting of the Christian symbol in the 1970s and the city has paid for its upkeep and illumination.
A Starke resident, represented by the American Atheists, sued the city in 2005 arguing that the display promoted the Christian religion in violation of the First Amendment principle of church-state separation.
Moore, in his ruling in American Atheists v. City of Starke, called the cross “the universal symbol of Christianity,” and said its display on the city’s water tower “has the unconstitutional effect of advancing, affirming, or otherwise validating Christianity.”
During the course of the litigation, city officials had the cross removed and then asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit as moot. Moore, however, said his order had to be issued because it “is not absolutely clear that the City will not put the Cross back on top of the water tower at a later date.”