The city of Ozark, Missouri, has for 20 years celebrated the Christmas season with a lighted cross in Finley River Park, and thanks to the town’s residents, it doesn’t look like the illuminated Christian symbol is going anywhere.
All of the hubbub started after an unnamed “concerned city resident” who didn’t like the cross being in a public park contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation — an atheist advocacy group headquartered in Wisconsin — to tell them about the display, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
The FFRF sent a letter to the city’s leaders, prompting the administration to tell residents earlier this week the cross would be taken down.
“It is the position of the City of Ozark that leaving a religious symbol on public property, in this case, a cross, will result in a lawsuit that we will not win as the other communities throughout the U.S. and our own region have tried this and lost,” the statement said.
How Did Locals Respond?
But the desires of the one “concerned city resident” didn’t mesh with most of the other residents in Ozark.
City Mayor Rick Gardner posted a Facebook message on his campaign page, revealing he’d received “hundreds” of phone calls, text messages and emails from locals upset over the town’s decision to take down the cross.
“Everybody wants it up. One lady is crying. This is part of Ozark,” Gardner wrote. “This is Christian County, for Pete’s sake.”
Because of the pushback he received from the city’s residents, the mayor said, “The cross is NOT down and will be lighted tonight. We have heard your thoughts and agree with them. We are now assessing all our options for addressing this situation. Stay tuned.”