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Legal Battle Rages After CA Town Tears Down Cross Monument: 'Blatant State Hostility'

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A legal battle over religious freedom is escalating in a small town outside of San Francisco, CA.

A small group of Christians with the Albany Lions Club have launched a renewed effort to reinstall a 28-foot cross that was torn down last year.

As CBN News reported, the metal-and-plexiglass cross has lit up the city of Albany Hill for the last 52 years for Easter and Christmas. 

However, the monument came under scrutiny in 2015 when East Bay Atheists began challenging the cross's constitutionality claiming it symbolized "a preference of one religion over others, offends some members of the city's diverse communities, is reminiscent of KKK cross-burnings in the East Bay hills in the 1920s, and is an eyesore."

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.

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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 an easement through eminent domain and remove the cross.

At that time, a district judge granted the city's request for prejudgment possession of the cross as the lawsuit over the eminent domain action continued.

The cross was quietly removed from the property last June and placed in storage while litigation continued. 

However, in January, an Alameda County Superior Court Judge approved the removal of the cross on Albany Hill, holding that the Lions Club cannot assert a Free Exercise of Religion. 

"The Lions Club cites no authority for the proposition that it has a right to speech in a manner that violates the Establishment Clause," read the ruling. 

The Albany Lions Club, with the help of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), is pushing back, filing a lawsuit to bring the cross back to the plot of land. 

"The Court failed to recognize the Lions Club had a property right to display the cross," said PJI in a statement to CBN News. 

Brad Dacus, the president and founder of Pacific Justice Institute, added that the state is blatantly attacking the expression of faith and hope. 

"The First Amendment of the Constitution protects individuals and private entities from such blatant state hostility to those wishing to express symbols of faith and hope. We at PJI are committed to defending such constitutionally protected expression," he said. 

Lions Club President Kevin Pope told the Washington Times last year that 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."

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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.