SEARCY, Ark. — An Arkansas police chief is defying atheist demands to remove a cross from the lawn of the police department.
Searcy Police Chief Jeremy Clark told reporters this week that the cross was planted in the ground before he took office a year ago, and that he has no intentions of removing it. He stated that the cross is just outside of his private office and that no one sees it there.
“Someone put it there. I didn’t put it there, [and] I don’t know who did,” Clark told local television station KARK-TV. “I wasn’t going to remove it just because this organization in another state told us that we should.”
“The only person that sees that cross everyday is me, unless someone is purposely trying to look for it,” he added to The Daily Citizen. “You can see these crosses in yards all over the community we serve. I don’t for one-second think a wooden cross staked into the ground is offensive to the majority of the people that we serve.”
The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) had contacted Clark last year to request that the cross be removed. The organization states that its letter was sparked by a complaint from a “concerned local resident and taxpayer.”
“It is our information that there is a white cross in front of the Searcy Police Station near one of the public entrances,” the letter from FFRF read. “We understand that these crosses were made and handed out by a local Methodist church.”
The crosses are said to be seeing throughout the town in various locations, but FFRF says that having the cross near the police station signifies a government endorsement of religion.
“It’s such a simple remedy,” Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor told KARK. “All they have to do is remove the cross, and if the police chief is partial to it, he can put it on his own lawn.”
But area residents are siding with Clark in stating that the cross should not be removed just because FFRF says so.
“I think the Wisconsin folks ought to tend to their business, and we’ll tend to ours,” one woman told reporters.
“Thank you, Chief Clark. Our community has the right to post the symbol. A great majority of citizens in Searcy and the county are Christian,” another stated. “If the person who wrote the ‘complaint’ is so ‘offended,’ please print their name. [The] chief and other city leaders are named, why not the complainant? Our community has the right to know who they are. Or even if there really was a complaint.”
FFRF says that it will continue to fight against the cross despite Clark’s refusal to remove it from outside his office.