Atheist Drops Lawsuit Over Mayor, Council’s Attendance at Ground Breaking for Church Cross Project

CrossCORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A professing atheist that filed suit after a Texas pastor invited the city mayor and council members to the ground breaking ceremony for a project to build what it is heralded as being the largest cross in the Western Hemisphere has decided to drop the legal challenge due to his wife’s health.

As previously reported, 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.

“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.”

Greene soon dropped Milby from the suit, and added Martinez, Rubio and Vaughn to his legal challenge.

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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.”

On Wednesday, Greene announced that he had dropped the lawsuit altogether due to his wife’s health.

“I am sending a request to the civil court today to dismiss the entire lawsuit,” he told the Caller-Times. “My wife was just diagnosed with Chronic kidney disease and osteoporosis and I don’t want this lawsuit to complicate our lives. As an atheist, my moral standards put my wife first at all times.”

Martinez said that Greene’s wife is in her prayers, but advised that she will not back down from attending the services that she desires.

“I am praying for Mr. Greene’s wife,” she said. “I did not want to respond with anger and ask the Court to punish Mr. Greene for filing a clearly frivolous and groundless lawsuit; However, Mr. Greene is on notice. Should he refile, we will have no other option but to utilize the legal system to defend our taxpayers from such a baseless suit.”

“In my official and personal capacity, I will continue to attend celebrations like the ground breaking of the Corpus Christi Cross,” Martinez continued. “I respect all faiths and beliefs and have the constitutional right to be afforded the same in my Christian faith.”

Vaughn made similar statements.

“I am a member of the church where the cross is being built: the church is where my family and I go to worship,” she said. “I consider it a duty and honor to protect my church’s right, my family’s right and most of all my God given right to express my personal faith and belief and to stand up as an American to defend our freedom to worship our God and express our religious beliefs. I respect Mr. Greene’s rights to his beliefs and will continue to pray for him.”

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