The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has lodged its second complaint in a month against a local Missouri jurisdiction. And the latest engagement may end up in court.
In December, the group asked the city of Ozark south of Springfield to remove a cross from a city-owned park. The complaint led the city to move the structure to privately owned land.
Now the Foundation has moved onto its next battle in Camden County near Lake of the Ozarks. The group claims two paintings in the Camden County Clerk’s Office violate the separation of church and state clause in the U.S. Constitution.
One is a painting of two steel beams, in the shape of a cross, with the date: 9-11. The other piece of artwork has an American flag with the Bible verse John 15:13. So far, the county has removed a ballot box that was positioned near the paintings.
KOLR-TV in Springfield reports roughly 200 people packed into a Camden County Commission meeting Tuesday to express their views.
Representatives of the family that filed the complaint say the paintings represent a clear First Amendment violation.
“Well, I’m here to tell you that their rights do matter,” Joe Poor, a family representative said. “Their rights are guaranteed by the same documents that Mr. Hasty (Presiding Commissioner) referenced earlier. They’re guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and they have every bit of a right, to not have you impose your beliefs upon them.”
But many Camden County residents say they don’t want the items removed.
“I agree that they have a right to speak under the Constitution, but they don’t have a right to sue us because we have a different stand than they do,” a community member said.
Camden County Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty told attendees that the views of residents would be heavily considered moving forward.
“The commission is in the position where we have to make some decisions,” said Hasty. “If I am getting the views of the majority of the people here, they would rather fight to the end rather than remove this.”
Hasty says the commission most likely will vote to retain the religious paintings based on the feedback they heard Tuesday.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation says it will take the matter to court if the County Commission does not remove the painting.
(Missourinet media partner KOLR-TV supplied this report)