In Salem, Oregon, the government maintains a roadside cross memorial on one road. It is perfectly legal to put up a cross to remember a loved one who died in an accident; however, there are limits. First of all, it can’t be up there forever. Different cities have different rules. Secondly, it can’t be maintained by the government. The government cannot promote Christianity, no matter what the circumstances are.
That’s why this cross in Salem is a problem. The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) is fighting against it. FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor says:
“The city shouldn’t be spending scarce public resources on the maintenance of a sectarian agenda. Many taxpayers in Salem would object to their hard-earned money going toward sprucing up crosses.”
Cheryl Kolbe, the regional chapter president for the FFRF, says it has been there for 12 years. She said:
“This is not the same as a very recent car accident where somebody put some flowers or whatever or even a cross on the side of the road a week or two. The cross dramatically conveys a message of governmental support for Christianity whatever the intention of the display may be.”
“The government cannot be seen as endorsing any religion. The courts have ruled consistently that a cross does represent Christianity and gives the impression of promoting Christianity over other religions or non-religion.”
The mayor, Chuck Bennett, said that the cross was first erected for a woman who was killed on that road. Again, this is fine, but it is on city land and maintained by the city. That part is wrong.