Atheist Sues Pastor for Inviting Mayor, Council Members to Ground Breaking for Church Cross Project

CrossCORPUS CHRISTI — A professing atheist has filed a lawsuit against a Texas pastor for allegedly violating the law for inviting the city mayor and council members to the ground breaking ceremony for his church’s project to build what it is heralded as being the largest cross in the Western Hemisphere.

Patrick Greene of San Antonio filed suit on March 8 against Rick Milby with Abundant Life Fellowship in Corpus Christi, asserting that the pastor violated the Texas Constitution by showing preference to the Christian religion.

Abundant Life Fellowship is the midst of its plan to build a 230-foot cross along Interstate 37 in Corpus Christi. The land is owned by the congregation and the project is being funded by private donations.

Because Milby invited Corpus Christi (Latin for “Body of Christ”) Mayor Nelda Martinez, along with Council Members Lucy Rubio and Carolyn Vaughn to attend the ground breaking in January, Greene filed suit against the pastor for the co-mingling of God and government.

“When I saw the mayor in her official position and the council in their official positions were attending a groundbreaking ceremony for a Christian symbol—that smacked right in the face of the Constitution of the state of Texas,” Greene told Fox reporter Todd Starnes.

He is expected to add Martinez, Rubio and Vaughn to his legal challenge for attending.

“It’s ridiculous. He’s attacking my rights and the rights of the mayor,” Milby told Starnes. “The groundbreaking was on a Sunday, and these are Christians, and they have a right to their faith.”

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Martinez told reporters that the cross held personal meaning as her father had long desired for such a structure to be built on the bay.

“The name of our city is Body of Christ, and I will tell you I will never forget that conversation I had with my father about his dream and his hope,” she explained to the Corpus Christi Caller Times. “No matter what belief you have, this is the name of our city and it was my constitutional right to attend. I will never regret being there for this wonderful moment.”

City Attorney Miles Risley agrees with Martinez and believes that Greene is misinterpreting the law—that the mayor and city council could legally attend of their own volition if they desired.

Attorney Jeremy Dys of First Liberty in Plano made similar remarks, stating that government officials who identify as Christian shouldn’t be punished for attending Christian services.

“This guy is trying to use the legal system to ban city council people from attending any type of church service,” he said. “To get the court to admonish them for daring to go to a church service is just wrong.”

Greene, who lives nearly 150 miles away from the cross structure, has also complained about the concept of the project altogether, calling it “tacky” and a distraction to drivers.

“Church property or not, the [pastor] showed incredibly poor judgment in putting it where everybody can see it—just because he wants to proselytize his faith and get converts,” he said.

Greene’s lawsuit only pertains to government attendance to the ground breaking ceremony and not any safety concerns.

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  • bowie1

    What’s next? Will atheists forbid public servants from attending church because it might be seen as an endorsement of religion? What a bunch of scrooges…it’s their way or the highway! What a bunch of selfish, self-centered ogres!

    • Josey

      Couldn’t have said it better myself, their time is soon coming, sad that a cross disturbs them so much, shows how fragile their mental state is, these ppl should be evaluated for mental disturbances. I think the diagnosis would be narcissistic personality disorder.

      • The Last Trump

        Like bloodsucking vampires who recoil in horror at even the mere site of a crucifix!
        Says it all right there, doesn’t it.

        • Becky


    • Jalapeno

      Eh.. I disagree with the lawsuit but the two situations aren’t really comparable. They were there in an official capacity, not just as an individual.

      I can think of quite a few people who would be mad if a mayor showed up in an official capacity to break ground for a mosque, so I’m not really too surprised that this is an issue.

      • bowie1

        Our mayor here in Canada often opens new or renovated facilities in an official capacity such as a local mosque that had been the target of an arsonist. He also spoke briefly at an armed forces event at our church a few years back. He also had some official capacity at a local pride parade.

        • Jalapeno

          I’d love for it to be like that. 🙂

          Unfortunately, people tend to get a bit grumpy about acting in an official capacity at any sort of religious functions that they don’t agree with, so the officials around here are generally expected to not act in that capacity at those events.

    • John Munro

      its ok to them if evolution is promoted.

  • Darryl Zufelt

    The law was not violated except by the atheist – . The US Constitution says Government can not make any law regarding religion – The Atheist is the one breaking the lawyer by trying to keep the pastor, mayor etc from practicing their religion – FROM THE US CONSTITUTION ARTICLE [I.]13 Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    • acontraryview

      “The US Constitution says Government can not make any law regarding religion”

      That is incorrect. The Constitution says that Congress cannot make any law that “prohibits” the free exercise of religious belief. It does NOT say that government cannot make any law regarding religion. There are many laws which spell out restrictions on the expression of religious belief – just as there are laws which spell out restrictions on other rights that are in the Constitution.

      • Darryl Zufelt

        Friend this statement is straight FROM THE US CONSTITUTION ARTICLE [I.]13 Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; (From the Library of Congress) so friend your statement is not worded right. (Please Read Carefully) so you understand the meaning.

        • Ambulance Chaser

          The words of the Constitution are over 200 years old, and open to broad interpretation. Luckily, we have case law that governs how it applies in given situations.

          That being the case, what case law do you think is applicable here?

          • Darryl Zufelt

            Let me ask you a some questions friend; #1 Do you have the right to believe in what religion that you choose? #2 If you do then do you have the right to practice that religion with out no one keeping you from it? #3 and if you do have those rights then what law etc, says you do have those rights? ————— Friend I live by Gods Holy Truths not man kinds trickeries and lies. ————– Friend the interpretation is plain common sense especially if you know the beginning history and forefathers of this country. It is only those that rejects freedom of religion or twist the meaning that will try to say their are many interpreations. Our forefathers of USA was not confused or idiot people.

          • acontraryview

            #1. Yes

            #2. Within the boundaries of the law, but not carte blanche.

        • acontraryview

          i’m quite aware of what the 1st Amendment contains regarding religion. I would suggest that you spend some time with it as it does not say: “Government can not make any law regarding religion” which is what you previously said and I responded to.

          There are any number of restrictions on the place, manner, and time of expression of religious belief, just as their are restrictions on all rights granted by the constitution. You cannot, for example, go out in front of your house at 3:00 am with a bullhorn and start proclaiming your faith. I cannot, for example, stand up in the middle of a restaurant and start proclaiming my faith. Churches are not allowed to ring their bells at any hour they care to. There are restrictions.

          Your statement that “government can not make any law regarding religion” is false.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      “The law was not violated except by the atheist”

      What law did the atheist violate?

      • Darryl Zufelt

        No one has the constitutional right to try and keep others including Government officials from practicing their own religions, if they try that is breaking the law – read carefully friend – FROM THE US CONSTITUTION ARTICLE [I.]13 Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; (From the Library of Congress)

        • Ambulance Chaser

          I’m sorry, are you trying to argue that the Plaintiff doesn’t have a right to sue? Because that’s absolutely false. Unless you’re under an order forbidding it (which only applies to maybe 500 people nationwide, if that), everyone in America has the right to bring suit.

          If the suit is non-meritorious, it will be dismissed. But filing a lawsuit is not illegal.

          • Darryl Zufelt

            No one has the rights to take another persons constitutional rights away or even try to. More and more this country is trying to get rid of Christian rid and make it a socialist and anti-religious nation.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            “No one has the rights to take another persons constitutional rights away”

            Correct (although I’m not allowing that that’s what’s happening here).

            “or even try to.”

            Incorrect. While it’s illegal to file frivolous lawsuits, this one isn’t going to meet that bar. It probably won’t succeed, but it’s hardly “illegal.”

  • Darryl Zufelt

    FREEDOM OF RELIGION FROM THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS – ARTICLE [I.]13 Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  • Darryl Zufelt

    10) Powers Retained by the States and the People. 9) Rights Attained by The People. 8) Bails, Fines and Punishments. 7) Rights in Civil Cases. 6) Rights to a Fair Trial. 5) Rights in Criminal Cases. 4) Search and Arrest Warrants. 3) Housing of Soldiers. 2) Right to Bear Arms. 1) Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press; rights of assembly and petition. The Bill of Rights Document in PDF format Contains the Following; communistic or fascism type of government (Leadership). governments in check and keep them ever become a socialist, dictatorship or Listed under the Bill of Rights to keep the people free in the local, state and federal Unlike Most if not all countries in the World the American People has many Rights

  • John Munro

    Well ya know when you read this We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
    that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
    that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.-never mentions evolving mohomid or any other believe the only one mentioned is Jesus. There is no other belief or religion or group who does this. Because this guy hates the idea of there being a creator is his problem. The judges need to quit pandering to them. This is the rock of this country. .

    • gogo0

      there is no mention of jesus in the declaration of independence. “creator” obviously refers to Zeus, who needs not be explicitly named because His power is evident as we are surrounded by His works.

      • John Munro

        the sound of denial it does not take much to see the point. nothing about evolution in any of it. No other belief gives freedom like Christianity so you should be grateful not like spoiled child.

        • gogo0

          what does evolution have to do with it? no one was talking about evolution

          • John Munro

            did not have to

          • gogo0

            yes thats my point, you didnt have to. i was asking why you did anyway

          • John Munro

            so your confessing your evolution is wrong?

          • gogo0

            I don’t know what makes you think that is what im doing, but to answer your question: no, why would I? the theory is constantly refined and major evidence has yet to be refuted. the counter-argument of “stuff is too complicated to be random” has no evidence to point to.

            I’m still confused as to what this has to do with the declaration of independence.
            are you implying that the word “Creator” somehow equals “the protestant christian sect’s god”, and its inclusion and the word “evolution” being excluded has any kind of significance?
            or is it that you think evolution is a religion, and your interpretation of the word “Creator” somehow means “my particular god, not your particular god” means that “my particular god, not your particular god” is shown favor in the document?
            are you also tracking the fact that Darwinism came about nearly a hundred years after the declaration of independence was written, and that the term would naturally not be referenced?

          • John Munro

            To me its odd willing to bet you never tried to know him Read the Bible … maybe to point out what you though as flaws. Been to church doubt it? put your whole heart into knowing him? doubt it but you doubt?? You know Bible Archeology has found a lot of truths in the Bible. But you doubt so where is your evidence for evolution? Got a picture of anyone who evolved? but you have been comfortable in that belief right? so… To me … Id guess letting everyone else tell you about these things are a burden to you..a new guy come to your Job .. other say he is a jerk etc.. do you automatically agree or find out for your self?

          • John Munro

            generally Atheist means evolution.

      • John Munro

        so its not evidence reason you reject Jesus its emotion.

  • acontraryview

    i can’t see that this lawsuit has any merit whatsoever.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      The suit against the pastor is ludicrous, but the suit against the city officials may have some merit, depending on the capacity they appeared in.

      • Darryl Zufelt

        Freedom of Religion DOES NOT SAY THAT IT APPLIES to Civilians only my friend. It applies to all USA Citizens including Government Workers as well. They also have Freedom of Religion Rights. AS long as they do not try to pass laws prohibiting or forcing religion on others to which hose city leaders and the church ground breaking were not passing any laws at all.

        • Ambulance Chaser

          Government workers can practice religion any way they please (barring certain illegal activities) WHILE ACTING IN THEIR OWN CAPACITY. Not while acting as agents of the government.

          Witness the ruling in Greece v. Galloway. A Catholic mayor cannot come in and start every city counsel meeting with a prayer to Mary because he’s Catholic. The meeting belongs to the government, and the people, not the government officials.

          • hytre64

            One of the civic “duties” of a mayor is officiating at various civic functions, such as a ground-breaking. Whether that groundbreaking is for a business, a new subdivision, or a religious institution, the mayor has the opportunity to represent the city at these events as he sees fit. Being at the groundbreaking ceremony for a religious institution is no more in violation of the 1st amendment than being at the groundbreaking for a business is endorsement of that business over all others.

    • Darryl Zufelt

      Amen Friend. The suit is unconstitutional actually because the atheist is trying to infringe on freedom of religion from others.

      • acontraryview

        Citizens are free to file lawsuits. Filing a lawsuit is one of the protections provided by the Constitution. So, no, the lawsuit itself is not unconstitutional. Whether the suit has any legal merit or not is determined by the judiciary. In this case, I do not believe there is any legal merit to the case. Filing the lawsuit, however, is not unconstitutional.

  • Brad F

    In 1958, President Eisenhower laid the cornerstone for the National Council of Churches headquarters in Manhattan. Eisenhower spoke of “sturdy
    defenders of the Constitutional and God-given rights of each citizen” and
    praised religion as the “firm foundation” of the nation’s moral life.

    So was Eisenhower a dominionist? We he trying to establish a theocracy in America?

    In 1958, no one would have asked such stupid questions.

  • Dan Jones

    It is okay, this is going to get worse and this is just the tip….

    Always be a light that is .shininginthedark.

  • Becky

    “When I saw the mayor in her official position and the council in their official positions were attending a groundbreaking ceremony for a Christian symbol—that smacked right in the face of the Constitution of the state of Texas,” Greene told Fox reporter Todd Starnes.

    No. It did not. No one there said that Christianity was the official religion of Texas. No one there said that all other religions aren’t allowed in Texas. Greene is misinterpreting the law, in fact, he’s trying to push no religion over religion in the state of Texas and I hope their attorneys will aggressively demonstrate it. Make an example of heathens like Greene.

  • WorldGoneCrazy

    I thank the God that I did not believe in for 42 years that He rescued me from atheism before the New Absurdism kicked in. We (former) Old Atheists would never have substituted an intolerance of all things religious for the freedom to be non-religious. This plaintiff belies his atheism, and makes an excellent, if unwitting, case for the existence of God.

    Oh how that Mighty Cross offends!

    • TammyHenson

      Love this reply

      • WorldGoneCrazy

        Thanks, Tammy! God bless you for your faithfulness!

  • Nedd Kareiva

    The suit should be dismissed and if so, the pastor should countersue the atheist for filing a frivolous suit. Public officials have the same 1st Amendment rights as private citizens and do not necessarily need to check them at the door cuz of a religious event. The case is without merit and the atheist cannot prove he was harmed by inviting city officials to this event. Again, I hope a countersuit is in the offing.

  • George Jenkins

    This has got to be just about the dumbest statement I have heard, ““Church property or not, the [pastor] showed incredibly poor judgment in putting it where everybody can see it—”…………….DUH…….let’s put it behind that knoll where no one cab see it.

  • Susan

    I did not see that any person was forced to attend. They were invited and given a choice. I don’t believe in unicorns but if some religion wanted to start a church that worshiped unicorns I would say “go ahead” because why fight something you say you do not believe in? When atheists cry out “Oh No” it just tells me that deep inside they must fear there is some truth to Christ and the cross or they would not have such an issue with it. I don’t believe in Santa Claus but I am not going to punish those who do. If it is not putting any person’s life in danger…let it go, their business is theirs and atheists need to mature a little and just ignore it. Like most adults ignore stuff they don’t believe in.

  • DebraJMSmith

    It should be thrown out of court by the judge.

  • Gena B

    The pastor can invite the president if he wants, doesn’t mean that he will show up. Same with the mayor. If the mayor uses his time there during work hours(getting paid), then that would be wrong. The mayor could decided to be a member if he wants, why sue the pastor?