A federal judge has ruled that a cross that has been maintained by the Lion’s Club at a public park in Albany for decades is unconstitutional.
The battle over whether the cross should stay put will continue Thursday morning when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will hear arguments on the issue.
The controversial cross, which sits on Albany Hill and lights up during Christmas and Easter, is opposed by a group of atheists and city officials who want it removed because it is on public land and doesn’t represent all religions.
“We want to get the city out of the business of trying to promote one religion over the other,” said Albany Mayor Rochelle Nason. She said it sends the wrong message that Christianity is preferred.
The attorney for the Lion’s Club argued that a space was granted to maintain a cross in 1971 and that the city knew the cross was there before the deal was made. A city councilman and his wife sold the land but made an easement deal which allowed the Lion's Club to keep the cross there. The deal was approved by the city years ago. He said the city cannot disregard the easement deal.
People who use the park are conflicted over the issue. “Times change, things change, the laws change with time. The same thing goes here. It’s not that anybody’s to blame,” said one park user.