Churches fighting lawsuits with white cross campaign

MARION, AR (WMC-TV) - Churches in West Memphis and Marion are making a statement about freedom of religion to combat a rash of lawsuits filed by the atheist group Freedom From Religion.

It is not unusual to see a religious symbol in a Christmas display.  Robert Harrell of Marion, Arkansas said Thursday that when the decorations come down, his white wooden crosses will stay up as a symbol of his religious freedom.

"I ought to be able to express mine, whether I want to put a cross out here or put a picture of the devil out here," said Harrell.

Sunday school teacher Gale Allen said adult students at Marion First Baptist Church agreed to forego their annual Christmas party to make hundreds of crosses for their congregation.

"The Bible tells us to support our government, but when the government can't display that fait, then we as individuals feel it's important for us to display that faith," said Allen.

Placing the crosses on private property eliminates the threat of legal challenges other communities are facing.  In Whiteville, Tennessee, the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing to have a cross removed from the town's water tower.

"I just want one of them to come say he's going to take it down, then I tell him, well, you're trespassing," said Harrell.

The white cross campaign is gaining momentum in the Mid-South.  At a cost of less than a dollar to make, Christians said they are sending a message they consider priceless.

The church will continue to make the crosses until everyone in the community who wants one has one.  They are free, but the church is accepting donations to put toward making more.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.