Large Granite Cross at Santa Clara Park Prompts Lawsuit - NBC Bay Area
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Large Granite Cross at Santa Clara Park Prompts Lawsuit

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the suit in U.S. District Court in San Jose on Wednesday, arguing that the city was violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by keeping the cross, an implicit endorsement of Christianity.

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    A Wisconsin-based atheists' group is suing the city of Santa Clara, claiming one of its members is offended by the continued presence of a large granite cross at a city park. Ian Cull reports. (Published Thursday, April 21, 2016)

    A Wisconsin-based atheists' group is suing the city of Santa Clara, claiming one of its members is offended by the continued presence of a large granite cross at a city park.

    The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the suit in U.S. District Court in San Jose on Wednesday, arguing that the city was violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by keeping the cross, an implicit endorsement of Christianity.

    "It doesn't matter if 100 percent of the people want it there," said Rebeccar Markert, attorney for Freedom From Religion Foundation. "It's still unconstitutional and needs to be removed."

    The 14-foot granite cross was donated by the Santa Clara Lion's Club in 1953 to mark the site of the second Spanish Catholic mission established in the city in 1777, according to the suit.

    But foundation member Andrew DeFaria lives not far from the park and as a result has had "unwanted and unwelcome contact with it," according to the suit.

    "He does not want to continue enduring the unwelcome contact with this clear symbol of the Christian religion and objects to the city's maintenance of such a blatant religious symbol," attorneys for the foundation wrote.

    DeFaria has taken steps to avoid walking by the cross or visiting the park, according to the suit.

    The foundation has been fighting the presence of the cross there since 2012, when it sent a letter to complain about it. The city told them then that it was considering dismantling the cross, moving the cross, transferring the land, or changing the name of the park, according to the suit.

    The city plans to respond after it has been served the lawsuit.

    NBC Bay Area's Ian Cull contributed to this report.

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