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Cross Monument Removed by CA Town After 5 Decades: 'They Hate It... Hate What It Represents'

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A legal battle over religious freedom is underway in a small town outside of San Francisco, CA, as a small group of Christians fight to re-install a 28-foot cross removed from a parcel of land last month.

A bench trial began Tuesday in a U.S. district court to determine whether the city of Albany Hill could invoke eminent domain to take the Lions Club's easement, which has been used to access the cross for more than 50 years. 

Since 1970, the cross has perched atop Albany Hill overlooking California's East Bay. Dorena Osborn told the Washington Times it has been there since her father and another community leader sold 1.1 acres of land to the city. The Lions Club was granted an easement as part of a 1973 deal. The land was turned into a public park and the cross was built. 

For the last 52 years, the 28-foot metal-and-plexiglass cross has been lit up for Easter and Christmas. It has been a pillar for worshippers in the community. 

However,  the monument came under scrutiny in 2015 when East Bay Atheists began challenging the cross's constitutionality. In 2017, Albany's mayor also criticized the Lions Club for illuminating the cross for a 9/11 anniversary. 

"I want to reiterate that neither the City Council nor the City of Albany endorses in any way the lighting of the cross for any occasion, religious or nationalistic, or supports its continued presence on public property," said then-Mayor Peggy McQuaid in a 2017 statement.

In 2018, a judge ruled that the cross violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The city was forced to either sell to a private party the small plot of ground where the cross rested or acquire the easement through eminent domain and remove the cross.

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Last year, the city council unanimously voted to pass a resolution to acquire the easement instead of accepting the Lions Club's offer to buy the small plot. A district judge granted the city's request for prejudgment possession of the cross depending on the outcome of the Lions Club's lawsuit over the eminent-domain action.

It was quietly taken off the property on June 8 and placed in storage. 

Albany Mayor Aaron Tiedemann maintained that removing the cross was more "consistent with their values".

"The city has actually put its money where its mouth is, and our city looks a little bit more accepting now in a way that we think is consistent with our values," Mr. Tiedemann told the East Bay Times. "For the small local group of people that really want to see the cross stay, when you've had such privilege for so long, losing it feels like being oppressed. That's going to be an adjustment for folks, but I think we will all get used to it, and I think it's a real benefit."

Lions Club President Kevin Pope told the Washington Times the city leaders clearly do not want any monument memorializing the Christian faith.

"The City Council seem to hate what it represents, and rather than take an amount of money for the land and sell it to the Lions Club, they've decided to spend what we think is probably close to $1 million to resolve this issue, instead of doing the easy thing," Mr. Pope said. "That's how much they hate it."

The club is appealing the decision to try to get the city to give them back the easement because they are willing to purchase it.

"I think they just gave the city of Albany a black eye," Pope told the News Group. "There's a lot of people who love it being up there — a lot of people go up there and pray and have church services. It's sacred ground to us, and taking it down shows their intolerance toward Christian values."

The trial will determine whether the city has to give the group back the cross or if the Lions Club will receive a settlement from the city for its removal. 

If they are given the cross back, the group could face more challenges in erecting it due to zoning and permitting. 

But Pope believes it is still worth the fight. 

"It's a sacred place to many, but there's a few loud, vocal people who hate it," he said. "But I believe the people who love it are a much bigger group than the people who don't."

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About The Author


Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.