STEUBENVILLE - A group of parishioners from the Holy Family Catholic Church have organized a yard freedom cross campaign they hope will spread across the city and country.
Don Jordan said the idea for freedom crosses was prompted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation threat to sue the city over an unofficial logo that includes a cross and the silhouette of the Christ the King chapel on the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus.
"We had a number of concerns regarding the foundation that threatened to sue the city. We felt it was an attack on our religious freedom. Our bishops have urged Catholics to pray, fast and take action in response to the attack on our religious freedom. This is our way of taking action," explained Jordan.
PAINTING DUTY — Several children are helping the freedom cross production process by painting the crosses. Working on the paint line were, from left, Rose Bergsma, Felicity Hosdil, Kwamai Hosdil and Lucia Bergsma. The Freedom Crosses are being sold at Holy Family Catholic Church. -- Dave Gossett
"The Holy Family Evangelization program and our other parish ministries banded together to develop the 'freedom cross' for Holy Family parishioners to place in their yards as a witness to our faith and our right to religious freedom," stated Jordan.
"The idea came from the photos from the Sept. 11 attack on the Twin Towers. I will always remember the photo of the damaged girders that had been twisted into a cross. The New York firefighters hung an American flag on the girders. That photo will always remain with me and it inspired our freedom cross design," said John Miller, a volunteer.
The idea caught fire among several parishioners who have helped create the wooden crosses with the word, "freedom" stenciled across the front and a small American flag placed at the top of the cross.
"We are cutting, assembling and painting approximately 200 crosses for our Holy Family parishioners. And we talked to Mark Nelson of the Nelson Fine Art and Gifts business and he has agreed to create a very similar design for sale to the general public," said Jordan.
"We started our first production run Friday, and the freedom crosses are available at our store on Lincoln Avenue for $10 each or on our freedomtothemax.com website. This is about promoting freedom of religion in our country. We have already had requests from several area citizens who want to express their support for our religious freedom," said Nelson.
Jordan said several officials from Franciscan University of Steubenville spoke to parishioners after a recent Sunday Mass.
"John has the tools we needed. So we bought some 2-by-4-inch boards and John and Frank Morrison are cutting them to the right length and size and drilling the holes for the American flag We have several kids who have volunteered to paint the crosses, then Robert Lantz is using a stencil made by a parishioner to paint 'freedom' on the front," said Jordan.
"The freedom crosses will be available for pickup after the Masses on Sunday.
City officials have met with representatives from four law firms who offered free legal assistance if the city fights the legal challenge from the FFRF.
"We have taken a threat of litigation by the Freedom From Religion Foundation seriously, so we heard from experienced lawyers on these constitutional issues. We will study our options and take what we believe is appropriate action," City Law Director S. Gary Repella has said.
"One of our concerns at this point is if the city contests a lawsuit and loses the case we could be responsible for paying the plaintiffs' fees, which could be substantial. If a decision is made to defend the logo, which was never adopted as the official logo of the city, we will look into the possibility of creating a legal defense fund for future financial concerns," Repella said following an August council meeting.
The Madison, Wis., based foundation first contacted the city in May regarding the unofficial logo, but council didn't go public regarding the logo until a July meeting.
Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci has said his office has received nearly 500 e-mails, "mostly urging us to fight this challenge"
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)