(Roselle Park, NJ, Sept. 27, 2016)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of local citizens challenging an unconstitutional display featuring a Christian cross in front of a public library in Roselle Park, New Jersey.
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. 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.
Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said, “The Mayor and Roselle Park Council had the opportunity to support an inclusive memorial that honors all who have served to defend our freedoms. Instead, they chose to favor only Christian soldiers, ignoring the sacrifices made by many of our diverse veterans.”
“A cross displayed on government property, approved by the mayor and borough council, endorses religion in clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “The city’s duty is to remain religiously neutral to respect the rights of all of its citizens rather than promoting Christianity.”
The lawsuit demands that the display be removed and seeks to forbid the borough from erecting a similarly religious display in the future.
In 2014, the American Humanist Association prevailed in a lawsuit challenging a similar religious display for veterans in Lake Elsinore, California. The American Humanist Association is also challenging crosses on public property in Bladensburg, Maryland, and Pensacola, Florida.
The complaint can be viewed here.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.