Controversial crosses lawsuit hearing date - WNEM TV 5

  • Evansville is facing a lawsuit over the decision to allow dozens of crosses to be placed along the riverfront. I think...

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  • Lawsuit filed over Evansville riverfront crosses

UPDATE: Decision on controversial crosses could be made within 2 weeks

A final decision regarding the crosses placed at the Evansville riverfront could be made within the next two weeks.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Tuesday made by two Evansville residents who are trying to prevent the city from displaying the 30 crosses along the downtown riverfront.

Attorney Gavin Rose says that a preliminary injunction hearing has been scheduled for July 18th at 2 p.m. in Indianapolis.

A public art display or a statement of religious support? 

That's the debate behind Evansville's approval of the 2013 Cross The River display set for the riverfront.

"It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous and it made no sense, and clearly, it's a violation of the first amendment," Nancy Tarsitano says.

Nancy Tarsitano and Chris Cabral, both of Evansville, say they didn't know each other before becoming plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

The complaint aims to block what the plaintiffs believe is a religious display on public grounds.

"I don't think you're bringing the community together by excluding other faiths or other belief systems, especially done in a public environment," Cabral says.

"It's public property. I don't feel that it is appropriate to have that or any other religious expression on public property," Tarsitano says. 

The crosses are set to be installed here along the busy downtown riverfront. They would be there for two weeks, running through August 18. 

"This is the City of Evansville saying to everyone that it strongly supports the Christian faith," says Gavin Rose, an attorney with the ACLU.

Rose says the project approved last week by Evansville's Board of Public Works is a violation of Tarsitano and Cabral's first amendment rights.

Evansville City Attorney Ted Ziemer says the city does not comment on pending litigation. On Tuesday night, the ACLU is asking the court to review the case and set it for hearing.

"I don't think the city as a whole truly understood what it was agreeing to by allowing a particular group's representation over others," Cabral says. 

"I couldn't believe it. I mean, in some respects you think it's a joke that it couldn't possibly be," Tarsitano says.

An attorney for the project's applicant, West Side Christian Church, which isn't a party in the lawsuit, released this statement.

"The United States Supreme Court has consistently ruled that such displays do not violate the establishment clause of the United States Constitution. The church believes the Board of Public Works acted within and in accordance with the Constitution in granting its permission."

The 30 crosses, standing between six and eight feet tall, would have been decorated by children attending a Bible school camp, and then placed along Riverside Drive; between Court Street and Locust Street.


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