WILMORE, Ky. — The mayor of a city in Kentucky is refusing to remove a cross from a water tower that belongs to the city but is on private property despite demands from an atheist organization to remove the crucifix.
The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently emailed Wilmore Mayor Harold Rainwater to state that the presence of the cross is “unlawful.”
“The Wilmore cross, displayed on the city water tower, unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity,” wrote staff attorney Rebecca Markert. “It conveys the message to the nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population who are not Christians that they are not ‘favored members of the political community.”
The water tower sits on the property of Asbury University, a private Christian institution. The cross was placed on the tower when it was owned by the university, and remained after the city bought the tower back in 1976. According to reports, it was part of the transferal agreement to leave the cross in place.
But FFRF said that makes no difference.
“We are aware that the water tower itself stands on the campus of Asbury University, a private Christian college, but this is irrelevant,” Markert wrote. “Any reasonable observer would understand the city to endorse any messages on the water tower because the water tower has ‘Wilmore’ printed on it in large letters, and because the tower is displayed on the city’s website to represent the city’s water and sewage services.”
She insinuated that FFRF might sue if the cross is not removed, pointed to another suit filed against the town of Whiteville, Tennessee.
However, Mayor Rainwater, who is also an associate professor at the university, says that he is not backing down.
“To be honest with you, I look at an email as spam. That is not the way you contact someone in a legal position,” he told the Jessamine Journal. “When I get a subpoena or I get served, then I know I have to respond … but I’m not going to take a cross down because of an email.”
Rainwater stated that the citizens of Wilmore want the cross to stay.
“There’s a groundswell of support to keep [the cross] and I’m certainly going to fight to keep it with everything I’ve got,” he said. “I think it’s symbolic of our town. I one hundred percent support keeping it there. We won’t take it down unless we’re forced to take it down.”