This Thursday, May 8th, the Holmen village council is expected to take up the issue of the Holmen ‘Cross.’ Perched on a bluff that can be seen from a great distance is a lighted star that during Easter is lighted as a cross instead, for just about a week. A relatively new resident decided that this offended him and it constituted an establishment of religion. The Holmen village decided to sell the small piece of property to the Lions Club which formerly was involved with the star and cross. This would effectively put the object on private land and dodge the church and state separation issue.
Oh, if only that would work.
A recent Holmen Courier article reports that several national atheistic organizations have taken an interest in the affair.
According to the article, the piece of property was appraised at $100.00 and the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation have both placed bids higher than a $1,000. The basic idea is to shame the village of Holmen if they consider offering the land to the Lions Club at its appraised value. Additionally, the Lions Club might be forced to decide the cost is too high in order to avoid that shame. But probably the real reason is legal. The article reports that “Both Ritter [AHA] and Gaylor [FFRF] said litigation is a possibility if the Lions Club wins possession of the land with a lower bid.”
The Holmen village council had hoped to avoid controversy and turmoil by following in the footsteps of La Crosse, who after a bitter legal process successfully defeated the FFRF and managed to sell of a 10 Commandment monument in a La Crosse park to a private entity. That was their hope, but it was misguided. In seeking to avoid a lawsuit they will probably still end up in a lawsuit. The only way to avoid a confrontation is to submit to the demands and remove the cross. With Eric Barnes bringing to bear two national anti-religious organizations it is clear to me that the town of Holmen had better move quick to produce some allies of their own.
Now, some of my own thoughts.
That the AHA and FFRF would become involved in this controversy was completely predictable. The FFRF lives to sue. That is why it exists. The La Crosse area detests controversy and if someone raised their voice in an argument they’d bend over backwards to make the problem go away. In this instance you have the basic equivalent except the problem is not going to go away unless you decide to cow to the demands presented to it.
It boggles the minds of many to believe that the lighting of a cross for a week during Easter could be constituted an ‘establishment of religion.’ The fallaciousness of the argument is exposed by the fact that Eric Barnes didn’t look at the lighted Star and believe that Holmen was endorsing astrology. Of course it isn’t. The thought never crossed his mind. Such thoughts don’t cross the minds of impartial and objective people.
We may be able to credit the FFRF with a certain measure of consistency: they at least would bring the star down, too. We are not told in the article why that is. We can suppose that they at least do believe the star constitutes some sort of ‘endorsement of religion.’ Is this the nation we want to live in? Where symbol after symbol must be taken down because it might resonate with the religious beliefs of some person some where?
My advice: Holmen Village Council- DO NOT SELL THE PROPERTY AT ALL. If you’re going to get sued anyway, you may as well take a stand in such a way that prevents organizations like the AHA and the FFRF from being able to bully numerous other towns for years to come. If it goes to the Supreme Court, so be it. Let us finally have the Supreme Court offer a clear ruling that remembers that the full statement does not stop at prohibiting the Congress from making a law respecting the establishment of religion, but continues on and says: “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
I say put the matter to a vote of the entire Holmen community. Give us all the opportunity to decide what we want to do. If we collectively decide to take it down, or to sell it, well at least the democratic process played out. But if we decide to keep it… then let the ‘non-religious’ FFRF and AHA know that they may successfully purge yet another symbol, but it will be at the expense of the majority of Holmenites. Their precious little offended consciences will be appeased… at the expense of democracy itself. I don’t suppose they’ll have trouble sleeping.
For some of my other posts on this matter, including a letter I submitted to the editor, follow this link.
For myself, I have decided to explore legal options of my own. There seems to me to be no reason to let national organizations array against the will of the people of Holmen without a fight. We’ll see.