In what is, by now, a pretty familiar narrative :
. . . in response to a threatened lawsuit by the Freedom from Religion Foundation , the city of Steubenville, Ohio, decided to revise its official seal (left) to remove the silhouette of a local landmark, the chapel on the campus of Franciscan University
In this case it’s especially rich given the college’s role in almost single-handedly resurrecting what had been a crumbling Rust Belt town. In fact, that way of presenting the cross—as a symbol of local history rather than a religious image—may have been acceptable in U.S. courts, though it looks like the city simply threw in the towel rather than plod through expensive litigation:
Im not sure the city was correct in estimating its chances. True, many lower courts have ordered the removal of crosses from city seals under the endorsement test, but the cases are very fact specific. The key question is whether a reasonable observer would see an official endorsement of Christianity, rather than a reflection of a communitys history. For example, the Tenth Circuit held a few years ago that the city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, could retain crosses on its seal in light of the fact that the city was named for crosses found in a local cemetery. [ . . . ] Thats one of the problems with the endorsement test. But was depiction of the cross here so awful an offense? Was there no more important Establishment Clause violation to address, somewhere in America?
(h/t: Mark Movsesian)
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