Atheist Activist Group Seeks Removal of Roadside Cross Memorializing Mother Who Died in Crash

SALEM, Ore. — A prominent professing atheist organization is seeking the removal of roadside cross memorial in Oregon, which it states is an unconstitutional government endorsement of Christianity because it sits on public property.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently sent a letter to the mayor of Salem to advise that it had received a complaint about the cross off Kuebler Boulevard. It said at the time that it did not know the origin of the display.

“It is blatantly unconstitutional for the City of Salem to display a patently religious symbol like a Christian cross on a public roadside,” attorney Rebecca Markert wrote. “The cross … unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity.”

“It conveys the message to the 23% of Americans who are not religious that they are not ‘favored members of the political community,'” she continued. “The cross has an exclusionary effect, making non-Christian and non-believing residents of Oregon into political outsiders.”

FFRF requested that the cross be moved to private property instead.

This week, the mayor of Salem told reporters that the cross is actually a memorial to a mother who was killed in a car crash at the location, and had been placed by her children. The immediate area around the cross, which is covered in mulch, stones and flowers, is maintained by the family.

“We had a woman killed there in an accident 10 or 12 years ago,” Mayor Chuck Bennett told television station KATU. “Her children wanted to put up a memorial to her, did and have maintained it ever since.”

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While he acknowledged that the memorial is on a public right-of-way, Bennett said that he doesn’t see the cross as serving as a government endorsement of Christianity.

“It’s an endorsement of a family’s love for their mother and their sadness at her loss and their desire to commemorate her memory,” he stated.

However, Cheryl Kolbe, the Portland-area leader of FFRF, asserted that the intention of the cross does not matter and that it is still unconstitutional.

“This is not the same as a very recent car accident where somebody put some flowers or whatever or even a cross on the side of the road a week or two,” she told the television station. “The cross dramatically conveys a message of governmental support for Christianity whatever the intention of the display may be.”

“I don’t like seeing Christian symbols or any religious symbols on public land,” Kolbe stated. “They’re free to move it to private land.”

The City is looking into the matter, but has not yet indicated one way or the other where it stands on the issue.

As previously reported, two years ago, the family of a late school teacher removed several crosses from a memorial erected in her honor at a West Virginia middle school after FFRF likewise asserted that the display would be seen as the school endorsing Christianity.

“There’s so many kids that came through this school that were affected by her death—that were affected by her teachings—and now we’re just trying to keep her memory alive here,” family friend Tracie Sadecky told WSAZ-TV.

“She collected [crosses],” she explained. “She had them in her classroom. She had them in her house, so it’s something we thought would be a great addition.”


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  • Paladin Roy

    Atheists fear the symbol of the cross of Christ, yet they cling to money that has “In God We Trust” imprinted on it. Kinda hypocritical, no?

    • InTheChurch

      yup

    • Jen

      Very true!!! When they gonna make a big issue about that!

  • Trilemma

    In his opinion in Salazar v. Buono, Justice Kennedy made this statement.

    A cross by the side of a public highway marking, for instance, the place where a state trooper perished need not be taken as a statement of governmental support for sectarian beliefs.

    I think the FFRF would probably lose this one.

    • Timothy White

      That ruling was about standing, not about the constitutionality of such crosses. A more on point case would be American Atheists, Inc. et al. v. Duncan et al., which directly addresses that issue.

      • Trilemma

        Thanks for pointing out that case. It’s unfortunate that SCOTUS declined to hear the case. The crosses in the Duncan case had state emblems on them whereas this cross does not. I think that’s a significant difference.

      • Jason Todd

        Even more on point would be the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

        • Timothy White

          In what sense?

          • Jason Todd

            It should be self evident. Just read it.

          • Timothy White

            I have. Repeatedly. What I’m asking for are your thoughts as to why it alone is more relevant than the decision I cited. I’m not saying it isn’t, I’m asking for the reasoning for your opinion.

    • Bob Johnson

      Maybe not, a couple of differences. First most of these crosses and shrines only stay up for a few weeks. This one is over ten years old. When does it stop being a private little memorial and transform into a permanent structure on government land?

      Second, most crosses like this are 18 inches to 2 feet high, this one is four foot high.

      • Trilemma

        I quoted Justice Kennedy because I think it shows the sentiment of the court. Size and duration should not determine if it’s constitutional or not. If these memorials were ruled to not be a violation of the establishment clause, states could still outlaw them or regulate their size, location and duration.

    • Calypso

      “Need not be” be taken as government support.

      This means, based on the facts, sometimes it can be taken as government support.

      The facts need to be considered:
      – Are government resources are used to maintain the the cross?
      – Is the cross allowed to stay up while roadside non-cross displays are removed?
      – Have individuals (or the government) used landscaping to expand the display to include extra land? Would this takeover of public land be permitted in a display that did not include a cross?
      – Is any form of special treatment extended to this grieving family that is not extended to grieving families that do not put crosses in roadside memorial?

      Traffic deaths occur on a regular basis. The hundreds of potential roadside memorials are not permitted to stay up. These would quickly become an eyesore and a road hazard. So it is fair to ask whether the government is giving Christians special treatment.

      • Trilemma

        Yes, sometimes it can be taken as government support as in American Atheists v. Duncan. These roadside memorials are probably not an establishment clause violation. That means it’s up the states to decide what to do with them. Some states ban them, some tolerate them and New Mexico protects them. If they get to be a problem, they’ll end up being banned and removed.

  • bowie1

    FFRF…America’s leading hate organization! At least that’s how I see it.

    • InTheChurch

      99% of all Christians and conservative see it the same.

      • Calypso

        Citation needed.

        There are in fact a large number of christians who value our secular system of government and oppose government promotion of religion.

        • InTheChurch

          There is a difference between real followers of Christ and the frauds.

          • Calypso

            I think that sets a new land speed record for turning “99% of all Christians and conservatives” into “No True Scotsmen.”

            “For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this goalpost, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.” Matthew 17:20, New American Evangelical Standard Version.

          • InTheChurch

            LOL, goal post, GGGGGOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLL

        • Florenca Mcdowell

          calyoso Really? We we in the church CHRISTIANS
          DO NOT CONSIDER THEM BELIEVERS

          • Calypso

            What!? The Lord you claim to follow said “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

            But Florenca is special enough to revise the words of Jesus. How precious.

            There is nothings that makes “using out secular government to promote my version of christianity” a requirement of following the Christ described in the new testament.

    • Nedd Kareiva

      Exactly what they are, worse than even the American Communist Lawyers Union and that says something.

  • InTheChurch

    FFRF needs to send a letter to every state, there are memorials all over the country. FFRF does not care about the memorials, just their agenda.

    • Jason Todd

      It’s about their hate. Period.

  • CrustyCurmudgeon

    Atheists do not fear the cross or any other religious icons or supernatural symbols. Atheists DO
    fear the corruption of our society and Constitution by religious fanatics and extremists who seek to impose their supernatural beliefs on others, to pervert our Constitution, and to pollute our government with religious edict and theist law. Atheists have no problem with religious people attending church, praying, or even burning sacrifices to the god of your choice. Just leave non-believers alone and keep religion where it belongs; in the church and in your home.

    • LoriCJ

      Umh if its public land then our taxes paid for it. Basically those who paid taxes own all public lands. The government doesn’t own the land, only those who paid for it.

      • Shane Egan

        The founding fathers had a very real fear of the tyranny of the majority. They knew that sectarian policies lead to sectarian violence which they were all too familiar with having grown up with a recent (and in some places) ongoing history of Catholics and Protestants killing nuns and priests for heresy.

        ANY government allowance of religious symbols amounts to a tacit endorsement – I am sure they would not allow a statue of Satan at a roadside memorial of a Satanist for example – thereby favouring one religion over another, something the constitution clearly does not permit.

    • Amos Moses – He>i

      A-theists would not be able to deny God …… if God did not exist ………. and they spend an inordinate amount of time fighting what they deny …… “Just leave non-believers alone and keep religion where it belongs; in the church and in your home.” …….. maybe the A-theists should take your advice ……. and just stay home where they are free from the marketplace of ideas …………… as they seem to have great difficulty with their belief in “non-belief” ……. LOL …………….

      • Shane Egan

        Christians like you could not deny Zeus or Thor if they did not exist according to your ‘logic’. Ridiculous reasoning.

        • Amos Moses – He>i

          there is neither …. so no ….. it is completely sound reasoning …… and the only reason you have reason is God ……. and to deny God is to deny reason, science and logic …………

        • FoJC

          They do exist. They are demons who cultivated a false religion to fool pagans.

          • Shane Egan

            So, Zeus was a ‘demon’? Why does god permit them to exist or act? If they are evil and god does not want them to do what they are doing why not simply stop them? It is either because god wants them to do evil, or lacks the power to stop them. Which is it?

    • meamsane

      You have just described a serious case of Paranoia! Thanks!

    • NCOriolesFan

      Non-beleivers are left alone. I’ve never heard, read or seen any Christian tell them how to live their lives but they have no problem telling Christians or any religion where to their put their beleifs.

      • Shane Egan

        So, religious based laws restricting the rights of gay people does not affect people? Try again.

        • NCOriolesFan

          Gays limit themselves in their deviant fantasy world. They don’t deserve any special rights over the rest of us.

      • Calypso

        Really? Where have you been?

        There are high school coaches across the country (who control playing time, position assignments, recommendations and thus potential college scholarships) who regularly instruct players – all players – to pray to the coach’s god. That qualifies as a christian interfering with the religious exercise of non christians.

        Newsflash. This DOES NOT qualify as leaving non-believers alone.

        What about the christian religious belief that a soul enters the body at the point that sperm meets egg? This is not a scientific conclusion. This oversimplifies conception and fetal development. This is a christian religious belief. Traditional Jewish belief is that life begins with the first breath. Non theists do not accept the religious concept of a “soul”. Yet Christians all over the country try to force their personal, religious opinions into secular law, thus seriously interfering with the personal autonomy and medical decisions of women.

        Newsflash. This DOES NOT qualify as leaving non-believers alone.

        What about the religious belief that marriage is one-man one-woman (despite the fact that the bible illustrates countless examples of “one man – multiple wives / slaves / war captives / rape victim” marriage). This is a religious belief. How hard did Christians fight to prevent secular marriages that did not conform to evangelical christian religious belief?

        Newsflash. This DOES NOT qualify as leaving non-believers alone.

        Non theists will continue to stand up to every christian attempt to co opt our secular government. This includes the never ending symbolic branding attempts where christians use veterans, grieving mothers, firemen and all sorts of people as an excuse to plant a christian religious symbol on government land.

        • NCOriolesFan

          All sniff, sniff – need a tissue.

          • Calypso

            How ’bout you just keep your Jesus branding and your Jesus prayers on your own property, and off of government land.

          • NCOriolesFan

            Thank you for applying my previous comment to Crusty.

    • Jason Todd

      Get stuffed, bigot.

      Blocked.

    • 0pus

      Miss Sunshine

  • Trilemma

    In 2007, the state of New Mexico passed a law protecting roadside memorials like this one.

  • Amos Moses – He>i

    the “tolerant” left strikes again ……… (1821 overture played here) …………..

  • NCOriolesFan

    OMG, these bigots have no morality or humanity at all. So sad a family needs their ‘permission’ to greive with a cross.

    • Jason Todd

      Permission to grieve, period.

  • Jason Todd

    But…but…the FFRF isn’t anti-Christian!

    Of course not!

    Don’t be silly!

    Uh-huh.

  • Jen

    Wow, these people have no heart!! I would love to be there on the day of judgement and hear what excuse they come up with when they are face to face with Jesus explaining their actions. Boy are they in for a rude awakening!!

  • Dan Chandler

    By what Authority, by whose DECREE were the FFRF made gods, and such gods that they are able to order that you must be CURSED, until the third and fourth generation, that you–and your children–must go to hell with the FFRF, that you must regard the FFRF, before the word of God, before Almighty God, Himself.

    Lest the FFRF be OFFENDED!

    And does the FFRF scream it is by the authority of THE COURTS, and by the authority of The Supreme devil’s Court of the devil’s Shenanigans, and Madalyn Murray O’Hare, and her ACLU Atheists?

    And that we owe, and must pay, our right to speak, and our right to talk about God and Jesus or the devil, and that we must not even SAY God’s name!

    That we must not pray!

    That we owe EVERY cross, and monument to the Ten Commandments, and EVERY semblance of God and Jesus and Christianity!

    Lest they be OFFENDED, the devil, and his servants, and the devil’s lies, his conjured gods of POLITICAL CORRECTNESS who are the devil (the devil et al.)!

    That one must NEVER OFFEND the devil, et al.! That one would only be allowed to praise the devil, et al.! If one would be allowed to speak at all!

    That one is a SLAVE! A WHORE! An IDOLATOR! That one owes, and must pay, that one must do what the devil wants:

    That one must depart from the word of God, and from Almighty God, Himself, that one must embrace the devil, and the devil ‘s lies refuted by the word of God, that one must worship, before the word of God, before Almighty God, Himself, that one must worship the devil, et al.!

    Lest they be OFFENDED!

    Ask The Supreme devil’s Court of the devil’s Shenanigans, and Madalyn Murray O’Hare, and her ACLU ATHEISTS.

    Ask the FFRF. Ask them under what Authority, by whose DECREE, were they made gods, and able to order that you–and your chilren–must go to hell with them.

    • Shane Egan

      If you do not agree with the constitution so vehemently, why do you not actually live according to the rules of the Bible. Why don’t you stone people who work on the Sabbath? Kill unruly teenagers? Slaughter non-believers? All those are commands from god just as valid as the Ten commandments but you pick and choose the ones you like and ignore the rest like ALL Christians. In fact anyone who lived according to Biblical laws would be breaking many civil laws in the U.S.

  • Rod

    Oregon residents need to find their kohones and put theses people in their place. Keep their mouths shut and leave the area (move to californica). I’m with you Bowie1. These are haters and they breed more hate.

  • FoJC

    The founder was pro-abortion. She died in 2015 and is now serving her eternal sentence in Hell. Those who follow her lead will End the same. They don’t like hearing this Truth, but they will like their deserved suffering eternally less.

    Don’t just get a religion, surrender yourself to the Son of God, the Word of God, Jesus Christ. Then you can receive Eternal Life, rather than keeping the Eternal Death you currently possess. Believe Jesus, believe in Jesus, and you will be saved from your sin nature, clothed in His gift of Righteousness.

    Follow Jesus, find Truth.

  • Nedd Kareiva

    I think Oregon would be a wonderful place for the FFRF haters to relocate. It’s the least religious state, least church attending state, most pro-abortion state (though it has competition with Vermont), first assisted suicide state. What more could Dangerous Dan Barker, his wife Annie Laurie Gaylord, Andrew Seidel & Rebecca Markert want? I’d gladly pay their one way airfare there or else start a fund where we can all chip in for their moving expenses.

    These morons are, to cite Rush, the equivalent to Dracula being spooked by the cross. Perhaps we should all mail them pictures of crosses to drive them batty, pardon the pun.

    • Shane Egan

      If you look at the measures of quality of life, such as education, life expectancy, wealth, fewer teen pregnancies, fewer abortions, less criminal activity, less jail time and so on you will find that the most religious states are the worst places in the country. The least religious states are healthier, kill fewer unborn babies and so on. In fact, if you want to reduce abortion rates for example you would be better to move to a non-religious state.

      • Nedd Kareiva

        I would tell you to cite your sources but CNN forbids the posting of links here, however, let me correct that in part. Washington housing is some of the highest in the nation, yet its crime rate is out of control. Connecticut, though with a little less crime, also has among the priciest housing in the U.S. There is much higher hostility to religious values in these states (heavily on the East & West Coasts). Living in Illinois, as I currently do, is declining in religious practice but outside of metro Chicago, it still holds its own. Abortions are high here, crime is high, taxes are high, illegals abound, etc. Go to our surrounding states, any of them – they’ll all controlled by the GOP & yes, the quality of life is much better. I lived in Indiana for 5 years before losing our home & moving back here; let me tell you, there’s no comparison. Everything was better by a landslide in Hoosierville. The less Democrat the state is, the better. I take it you’re a Democrat, hence your opinion. It’s errant.

        • Shane Egan

          CNN? No I gathered my data from the U.S government official sources, such as the CDC and the census bureau. Where do you get your ‘alternate’ facts from? I suppose you, like Trump, cannot see reality if it does not fit your worldview.

          • Nedd Kareiva

            Listen up, you sniveling little twerpy bozo, I don’t have time for you. If I can’t persuade you, why should I waste my time with you? I got better things to do that argue with someone who isn’t going to convince me of squat & who apparently has nothing better to do with his time. Cast your aspersion on Trump if you like but let me tell you something, bozo, he’s a heckuva lot smarter than you. What have you done in your life that was worth more than a hill of beans? The man built a business empire, hired lots of folks, developed properties around the world, etc., etc. Trump has a very real worldview on all sorts of things. Yours is very narrow minded. You have nothing to offer except wasted space. How about using it to go jump in the ocean?

          • Shane Egan

            Ah, so no actual evidence or facts on your side so you resort to anger. What a perfectly Christian thing to do. Whatever happened to ‘Love thy enemy’? I guess you turned it to ‘hate anyone you disagree with.’

            Trump and you seem a perfect fit – ignorant and angry.

          • Nedd Kareiva

            “I guess you turned it to ‘hate anyone you disagree with.'”

            There it is, you libturds equate disagreement with hate.

            “Trump and you seem a perfect fit – ignorant and angry.”

            And what are you going to do about it, little boy?

          • Shane Egan

            Oh, so insults that are totally irrelevant to the topic are just your way of showing your Christian kindness? I feel sorry for you if you genuinely feel so angry and bitter and I sincerely pity you for your intellectual weakness, to be so wrapped up in a world of hate and suspicion, that you cannot form a cogent argument to support your beliefs. To quote Trump, “Sad'”.

          • Nedd Kareiva

            OK, you want to make an issue of this matter, I challenge you to a public debate. If you think I am intellectually weak, then let’s have a public forum on it. I’ll set up the time & day, you show up & make your case to an audience of your peers. I will do the same & together we’ll let the public decide who won the debate. If you reside in the Midwest as I do, I’ll arrange for a location reasonably accessible to both of us. If not, it will take a little longer to do so, due to my schedule but we’ll get it set up.

            Before you accept (and please, I hope you do), I have previously taken on the ACLU & National Safety Council so think twice about your decision. I am not willing to engage in a tit-for-tat on a faceless, voiceless forum like Disqus. I want to argue substance & truth & do so with the Constitution in mind. So if you’re as smart as you come across to be, how about accepting my offer?

            Deal?

          • Nedd Kareiva

            OK, you want to make an issue of this matter, I challenge you to a public debate. If you think I am intellectually weak, then let’s have a public forum on it. I’ll set up the time & day, you show up & make your case to an audience of your peers. I will do the same & together we’ll let the public decide who won the debate. If you reside in the Midwest as I do, I’ll arrange for a location reasonably accessible to both of us. If not, it will take a little longer to do so, due to my schedule but we’ll get it set up.

            Before you accept (and please, I hope you do), I have previously taken on the ACLU & National Safety Council so think twice about your decision. I am not willing to engage in a faceless, voiceless forum like Disqus. I want to argue substance & truth & do so with the Constitution in mind. So if you’re as smart as you come across to be, how about accepting my offer?

            Deal?

  • Janeben

    I am a bit puzzled. Why are there obvious, dedicated atheists posting on a Christian site? Where is the courage in your convictions? Very interesting indeed. I can add that to the list called:Things that make you go hmmm……

    • Shane Egan

      I post because sometimes (often) the content of the articles on this site are very deliberately slanted to make the atheists out to be the bad guys either by omitting facts or by it seem like the Christian viewpoint (whatever that is since there are over 30,000 recognised Christian sects) is the only one worth any thought.

      With regards to this issue, I personally see these memorials occasionally and I just think how sad it is, but I also think memorialising a place where someone dies is a little strange – I would much rather build a memorial to a person where they lived and were happy.

      As I asked before though, how would you feel if it were a shrine to Satan being placed where a Satanist died on public property? Would you be OK if there were dozens in your local area or even just one? How long do you think it would last before some ‘compassionate’ Christian destroyed it? Christianity may have the ‘tyranny of the majority’ on their side (as the founding fathers feared) but does it make it their exclusive right to put their religious symbol on public property? If yes, then the government is endorsing a particular religion over others which is against the law.

  • Chet

    Simply ignore FFFR’s caterwauling and keep on keeping on…

  • Florenca Mcdowell

    perhaps SHE needs to read the 1st AMENDMENT SHE CANNOT take away someone’s rights because she is not a believer. My challenge to her is IF SHE DOES NOT BELIEVE IN A GOD why protest him?