American Humanists Sue New Jersey Town over Memorial

The American Humanist Association has sued Roselle Park, New Jersey, for erecting what they call an “unconstitutional display featuring a Christian cross.” The “illegal” display is the now well-known silhouette of a soldier kneeling at the cross-shaped headstone of his comrade.


The complaint is filed against the Borough of Roselle Park and Mayor Carl Hokanson, who had the cross display installed by Department of Public Works employees. The display prominently features a Christian cross silhouette with a soldier kneeling in front of it.

The AHA is free to be offended. They’re free to sue. That does not mean anyone has to kowtow to their delicate dispositions toward geometric shapes.

The image of a soldier kneeling at a cross-shaped headstone is iconic in its own right. No reasonable person sees the image as endorsing any religion. They see it as recalling vivid imagery of the pain and loss of war. (If anyone was going to make such a memorial for the purpose of promoting Christianity, wouldn’t they make the cross taller?)

Other towns have bowed to the AHA or similar organizations over this same silhouette, either because they feel they lack the funds to mount a defense, or because members of the town or council share the AHA’s antagonism toward public displays of items that might be remotely related to religion.

No religious exercise requires this memorial to stand. That said, no law requires it to be banned simply because of the shape of a cross.

If it were to be censored for that reason, such action based on religion would actually violate US law under the Constitution that prohibits the government from singling out expression for discrimination because of its (in this case, incorrectly attributed) religious content.

Initially, the town stood firm:

Local citizens voiced their concerns that the cross on public property violated the separation of church and state, but the mayor ignored their objections. They then reported the display to the American Humanist Association, which sent a warning letter to the Borough in August. In response, the Borough council members voted to keep the cross display.

Subsequently, the Mayor “temporarily” removed the memorial while the lawsuit played out, and the council is prepared to undo the approval of the memorial today.

Let’s pray our society grows to demonstrate the courage and stamina to stand up to bigoted — and likely spiritually convicted — bullies.

Also at the Religion Clause.