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Small-town Tennessee mayor seeks legal help to fight atheist “terrorists”

Calling aggressive out-of-state atheists “terrorists,” a small-town Tennessee mayor is asking for help defending a cross atop his town’s water tower.

The cross atop the water tower

“They are terrorists as far as I’m concerned,” said Whiteville, Tennessee, Mayor James Bellar about the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. “They are alleging that some Whiteville resident feels very, very intimidated by this cross.”

The Wisconsin group has sent him threatening letters saying they will take the small Tennessee community to court to force removal of the cross, reports WREG-TV Channel 3 News — which had reported the mayor’s decision to remove the cross. However, apparently the city council has put that on hold while consulting with a Christian law group, seeking help in defending the cross.

“The mayor said his community is under attack,” reported Fox News Radio. Bellar said the cross was erected on the water tower about eight years ago by private citizens who collected donations to cover costs, Fox reported:

It’s just a cross on the water tower,” Bellar said. “All we’re doing is exercising our right to practice our beliefs down here but this organization is now going to stymie that. We’re not out here knocking on doors trying to convert people.”

But Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Dan Barker told Fox the cross is a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They’ve given the mayor until the end of October to remove the cross. “The law is very clear on this,” Barker told Fox:

“A secular city may not promote or hinder religion. We don’t have a problem with believers putting up crosses wherever they want, but this is a cross put up by the city on the city water tower.”

Barker said they’ve been sending letters to the city since last year demanding that the cross be taken down, acting on behalf of an unnamed resident who complained.

“It offends many residents,” Barker said of the cross. “Many of them think the cross symbol is an offensive symbol – that it’s an insult to humanity.”

Mayor Bellar said he doesn’t believe that’s true.

“As a matter of fact, I don’t even think it’s a Whiteville resident,” he said. “We don’t have people of that belief here and if we do they’re not going to raise that kind of ruckus for the rest of the town.”

The town council has voted to consult with the Alliance Defense Fund about their legal options, “This is their cause in life – to ride up and down the highway and find small towns that maybe have a religious symbol somewhere on public property,” he said.

“A terrorist is more than a guy that flies the planes into the building,” the mayor told Fox. “It’s anyone who can disrupt your way of living, destroy your lifestyle, cause you anxiety. It’s more than killing people. If they can disrupt your routine in life, that’s what they want to do. They are terrorists as far as I’m concerned.”

Barker said he found the comparison to be ironic.

“He’s the one breaking the law,” Barker told Fox.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment JP

    If the private group wanted to erect a cross at that height, they should buy some land and built a tower instead of using other taxpayers money to promote one religion.

  • http://Ifyoudon'tlikeit,justletitbe. THE PATRIOT

    I would seem to me that these people don’t believe in anything.They want their right to give their opinion,but want to deny the rights of others to to give theirs. These people in Ten. are not protesting their right to their beliefs. If you don’t believe that’s fine with me, If you don’t like the fact that we do,why don’t you just let it be.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Unknown

    We are a nation founded on religious beliefs. One Nation Under GOD! Every American Citizen has the right to freedom of speech. The cross is freedom of speech and should not be denied. If you dont like it leave the country. There are many other countries you can go to without having to see a cross.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Just Sayin

    it seems to me that it would be in the best interest if everyone who believes puts a cross on their lawn instead of the water town.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nicholas linn

    Since there exists freedom of religion, & we are one nation under God, no one here would mind a crescent being erected alongside the cross, right?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment LATRISA


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