|Updated: 8/30/2012 10:10 am
||Published: 8/29/2012 6:27 pm
The controversy over street sign silhouettes depicting crosses continues in McAlester.
Residents want the silhouettes put back up, saying they want to preserve Christian values. But the city manager and city attorney say the silhouettes violate the separation of church and state laws.
There are roughly 150 of the silhouettes posted up on signs around town. Only three or four of them were removed because they had crosses in them. They are now posted on private property outside local churches. But those three or four are getting people fired up.
Roughly 150 people showed up at the McAlester city council meeting Tuesday night, filling council chambers and two overflow rooms. Almost all of them demanded the silhouettes with crosses be put back up. A petition with more than 1800 signatures was also presented to the council in support of the silhouettes.
Ninety-nine percent of the people here are Christian," James Prince, Chairman of the Gaines Creek Association of Oklahoma Free Will Baptists, said. "We're just tired of being pushed around."
Prince said his group, like many other Christians, want to preserve a Christian way of life in the area.
Court decisions made, taking the Ten Commandments out, prayer in school has been a big issue," Prince said. "And we have just sat around and not done anything. And we've decided that we're going to draw our line."
City manager Pete Stasiak said the city attorney has been very clear: the silhouettes endorse a specific religion and that is unconstitutional.
"Nobody has come forward at this point and talked about a lawsuit," Stasiak said.
But they could. And such lawsuits can get very expensive for a city.
"These are dollars that we would have to pull from other areas of the city," Stasiak said. "Anything that distracts from those services, any additional expenses would possibly eliminate some services to the community."
Prince said that shouldn't be an issue, though.
"Area churches will band together and raise the money to take care of the payment IF the city loses," he said.
Mayor Steve Harrison said he and most of the city council members support the silhouettes personally, but they also have a legal responsibility to protect the city.
"I don't think the city would pursue it unless we think we could prevail," Harrison said. "That's got to be question number one: can you prevail?"
But Prince said he and other will continue to fight for what they believe in, no matter the cost.
"This country was built by Judeo-Christians," he said. "And we intend to bring that back."
The city council plans to take up the silhouette issue again at its next regular meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11.