Religious group demands removal of courthouse crosses, locals plan to fight back

COLDSPRING, Texas – The Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded that four white crosses be removed from the San Jacinto County courthouse immediately, and many locals plan to fight back.

“These crosses unabashedly create the perception of government endorsement of Christianity,” an attorney for the national organization, based in Wisconsin, said in a letter to the local judge, Fritz Faulkner.

The courthouse sits at the center of Coldspring, Texas, which has a population under 900 people and is about 60 miles north of Houston. The crosses, one on each upper window, are lit up during Christmas.

“I don’t think it’s going to go over very well here,” Rhonda Martin said. “It’s a Christian community.”

In its letter, FFRF said, “a concerned Coldspring resident” reported the crosses, which the organization called “a blatant violation of the Establishment clause” of the Constitution.

Here is that clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”

“If it offends them, close your eyes when you go by,” David Blevins said. “If you don’t like it, don’t look at it.”

Commissioner’s Court was scheduled to talk about and vote on the issue on Wednesday morning. Many who belong to the dozen or so Christian churches, among others, encouraged members to come to the courthouse.

“You have the right to honor the cross and you have the right to not honor the cross,” Robin Blevins said. “That cross isn’t hurting anybody. It’s to benefit those who believe.”

“These crosses have an exclusionary effect,” the FFRF attorney said in the letter, “making non-Christian and nonbelieving residents of Coldspring political outsiders.”

“Good luck. Is that the law?” Coldspring resident Jay Dale asked. “Do they have to remove it?”

FFRF represents unnamed “concerned residents” in many states and cities across the country and in Texas, demanding that government officials remove religious imagery from everything from courthouses to fire stations.

Sometimes the organization is successful, other times they aren’t. The Longview Fire Department recently removed a cross that was part of a Christmas display from its lawn after an FFRF complaint.

Earlier this year, FFRF asked the Shelby County, Texas Sheriff’s Office to remove three crosses from its lawn. The crosses have not been taken down.

“It’s crazy stuff,” Dale said. “I’m pretty sure (the crosses) will be staying.”

“We will fight for this, as long as we have breath in our lungs,” Bevins said, “because look what Jesus did for me.”