City asks appeals court to preserve 76-year-old landmark
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A historic cross that has stood in a Pensacola park since World War II should not be torn down, the city of Pensacola told a federal appeals court. The cross is one of more than 170 displays in the city’s many public parks, but four people sued the city in 2016 claiming that the cross is “offensive.” A federal judge ordered that the monument must be removed, but the city has now appealed.
The cross was placed in Pensacola’s Bayview Park in 1941 for a community gathering organized by a local community service group as the U.S. was on the verge of entering World War II. Pensacola, known as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation,” was heavily impacted by World War II. For decades, community events have been held at the cross, including Veterans Day and Memorial Day services. Today the cross continues to serve as a symbol of the city’s history and culture.
“Pensacola has a rich history, and it shouldn’t have to censor that history just because part of it is religious,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at Becket, which is defending the City of Pensacola. “The constitution doesn’t treat religion like a nasty habit that must be hidden from public view; it treats it as a natural and valuable part of human culture. Pensacola can treat religion the same way.”
Last year, the American Humanist Association sued the city on behalf of four people who said the cross was offensive. Two of those people live in Canada; the third lives outside the city; and the fourth has used the cross for his own “satanic purposes.” One of the plaintiffs had visited the cross for 23 years before filing the lawsuit.
A federal judge ruled in Kondrat’yev v. City of Pensacola that the cross “is part of the rich history of Pensacola,” and that “the enlightened patriots who framed our constitution would have most likely found this lawsuit absurd,” but that his hands were tied by a 30-year-old decision from the appeals court, and so the cross must come down. That appeals court will now decide the cross’s fate.
“This cross has been a positive symbol of unity for this community for over 75 years. One contrived lawsuit should not be allowed to tear it apart,” said Goodrich.
Becket is representing the City of Pensacola and Mayor Ashton Hayward, and Becket attorneys are available for comment.
Becket’s Opening Brief (September 26, 2017)
Case Page for Kondrat’yev, et al v. City of Pensacola (legal docs, press releases, images, news)
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Pensacola counters attack on historic cross
at 2:46 PM