Crosses will not be allowed on Evansville's riverfront - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Group offers alternative for crosses on Evansville's riverfront

Owners of this building have offered it as an alternative home for the cross display Owners of this building have offered it as an alternative home for the cross display
A final legal decision has been made regarding the crosses placed at the Evansville riverfront, but a new wrinkle could mean the crosses will still be displayed downtown.
On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled the crosses will not be allowed to be displayed along the riverfront in Downtown Evansville. In the ruling he said the "Cross the River" display would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

In the ruling, the judge writes the size and the scope of the display crosses the line of constitutionality. The city wants to know where exactly that line is.

"The city was going to find itself on the end of an unwanted lawsuit no matter what it did," City of Evansville attorney, Keith Vonderahe said. "We know 31 crosses, 6-feet tall on the riverfront for two weeks is too much. What we don't know is what is acceptable."
But now a lawyer for West Side Christian Church tells 14 News, the Kunkel Group has offered the McCurdy building lot, on Riverside drive, as a potential site for the Cross the River display.

Chris Wischer says they are reviewing the decision and options and no decisions have yet been made.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court made by two Evansville residents who were trying to prevent the city from displaying the 30 crosses along the downtown riverfront.
Plaintiff Nancy Tarsitano says this was never an attack on religion, but about protection of Constitutional rights.

"I think the judge did the right thing. I am very happy about the ruling," Tarsitano said. "The next time that a group asks to put an unattended display along our riverfront, there will be some very clear guidelines on how that will be handled."

The crosses were set to be installed along the busy downtown riverfront. They would have been there for two weeks, running through August 18. 

It's clear the case has stirred up heated debate.

"It just upsets me that people like this dictate to us what we can and cannot do," supporter Pam Schuck said.      

"I don't think that the state should get involved with religion. I don't think it should be endorsed," residents Sam Monsen said. 

"We have a free country like free religion and I think they should be able to put the crosses down here," supporter Marissa Ricketts said. 

The 30 crosses, standing between six and eight feet tall, would have been decorated by children attending a Bible school camp, and then placed along Riverside Drive; between Court Street and Locust Street.

The city could choose to appeal the decision. The Cross the River opening ceremonies are still going to be held on the Riverfront Sunday, beginning at 3:00 p.m.

No word on any final decision on where the crosses will go. Our calls to The Kunkel Group have not been returned.

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