Tonight at their council meeting the trustees of the village of Holmen voted unanimously to approve the sale of a tiny piece of property with a star on it- which can be lighted as a cross during Easter- for $600. The property had been appraised at $100.00. Six times the appraisal value might seem a little odd… but the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association had bid somewhere in the realm of $1,200 for the property, vowing to remove the cross for sure, and in the case of the FFRF, the star as well (we can suppose the star constitutes an establishment of the religion of astrology by the town of Holmen).
I recently discussed the issue in this entry about the Holmen Cross and the most recent developments so I will just briefly comment now.
This whole move was done in order to mimic the route that La Crosse took. In that incident, the FFRF sued on account of a 10 Commandment monument, and the town of La Crosse sold the piece of property it was on to a local private group.
The problem with that approach, as with Holmen adopting it, is that the residual issue still remains: is it constitutional or not for a city to have on its property religious symbols or monuments? Does it or does it not constitute an ‘establishment of religion’? Is the most important thing really merely retaining the displays? It may be a legal avenue to preserve the display to sell off 50 square sections of city parks and property but do we really want thousands of ‘free expression’ zones like tiny islands?
Here is the thing: The FFRF and the AHA have both suggested that they might yet sue. Perhaps the village of Holmen will win that suit. Yet by dodging the issue, atheistic activists will continue to be able to harass cities and towns across the country. If you’re going to get sued anyway, you may as well have taken a route which would have really achieved something substantial. Will we continue to be a nation where atheists say ‘jump!’ and small governments reply, ‘How high?’
So now we shall see what comes of things. Such irony it would be if the FFRF sues Holmen (on the grounds that declining the higher bid was poor stewardship of public resources, or something like that) and wins! The star would come down after all on perfectly mundane legal grounds, with no precedent at all to show for it! We shall see.