Cross Controversy: Religious Symbols in Wayne County May Have to Go

HONESDALE, Pa. -- Lighted religious symbols in Wayne County may have to go dark.

Borough leaders were told an illuminated cross and star celebrating the holidays in a public park are unconstitutional.

The cross and star are in a public park in Honesdale.

A Newswatch 16 investigation found borough leaders are only now finding out about a letter sent to the mayor months ago claiming both are unconstitutional and should be removed.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the mayor of Honesdale back in June. It says someone filed a complaint about the star and cross on borough property and both violate the First Amendment.

For generations, the cross has been lit high above the borough every Easter season. Then around Christmas, a star is lit up, and now, both have led to a letter, a challenge from the Freedom From Religion Foundation of the constitutionality of both symbols.

"At the moment, I didn't do anything with the letter. I didn't think anything of it because it's been there over 50 years," said Honesdale Mayor Sarah Canfield.

The letter asks Honesdale to move the star and cross to private property since, according to the foundation, they're a "serious constitutional violation."

Mayor Sarah Canfield disagrees.

"A star is a star. You see stars every night. A cross, to me, it's just an icon of Honesdale borough, an icon of the Honesdale area," said the mayor.

Some, including borough resident Dan Flannery, don't see it that way.

"There's no shortage of churches in Honesdale. That's where it belongs. It doesn't belong on public land," Flannery said.

The star on Irving Cliff has been lit each and every year for decades right after Thanksgiving and through the Christmas holiday. This year, that's in doubt after the borough received a letter saying this is unconstitutional and the mayor for four months now hasn't done a thing to let borough council members know and they're just now finding out.

"The area is dominant in Christianity. There should be favoritism one over another. There should be that because no one around here is really Jewish. No one is Muslim," Zachary Guiser said.

"The cross realizes what that is. It's religious. Why's everyone so touchy about religion?" Linda Reeve asked.

"It's been here for a long time. I understand it's going to be hard for folks to wrap their heads around, right? Let's just challenge ourselves to be more inclusive, to be more creative. Let's find another way to celebrate the holiday season in Honesdale," Flannery said.

The letter was on the agenda of Monday night's borough council meeting after Newswatch 16 filed a Right To Know request with the borough.

People came out to that meeting to express their opinions.

"The star and cross that have been on our hill since the '50s are not a symbol of oppression or anything negative but rather a big part of what makes our town great," said Zach Wyckoff of Honesdale. "Several said tonight they never saw it so much as a religious symbol as it is the spirit of the holiday in our town, and I think that's what's at stake here."

No decision was made on whether to move the star and cross from the park at Monday night's meeting.

45 comments

  • Erik Latranyi

    The hate-filled mob, also known as the Democratic Party, are 100% responsible for this. They use violence and threats to intimidate honest, decent citizens.

    Do not reward mob behavior with your vote in November! Show the Democrats that we can display a cross and still be the most tolerant nation on Earth with regard to religion.

  • Elyas Johl Dzeckor

    Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
    there is no one who does good.
    These people are just upset that a God-fearing man is in The White House these days. Their drug-addled efforts will dry up as soon as their stash does.

  • Colleen Marie Schultz

    Anybody who is interested, there is a petition on Change.org to keep it right where it is! Titled “Keep Irving Cliffs Heritage! The Star Stays”.

  • Lori Bonser

    Doesn’t this group realize that public grounds are re for EVERYONE, not just those who say they don’t believe. That being said, these symbols need to stay as we should not now down to these few who live their lives making trouble for the rest.

    • Charles Sparrow

      LB-Indeed, public grounds are for everyone so you won’t mind every other religion. like Satanists and Muslims having their symbols on public property to include the non-religious Atheists too……………..right? Fair is fair, or are you the typical selfish christian who cares only about christian supremacy and not about the rights of minorities. Divisiveness, hatred and conflict, the only thing religion has ever done and the only thing it’s good for. There are no great religions. They’re all imaginary, make-believe, pretend fairy tales, phony scams and dangerous.

    • beekeeper

      If you’re suggesting these public grounds are available for any group, religious or otherwise, to erect lighted signs and symbols at the taxpayers expense, then you’re wrong. That isn’t the case.

    • Eric Feldman

      I think that is the point. By putting up religious symbols, that says the public space if not for everyone. The FFRF wants the space to be for everyone.

      • Carol Ann Stephens

        Welcome to the official FFRF Facebook page!

        The nonprofit Freedom From Religion Foundation is the largest freethought association (atheists and agnostics) in North America.

        Since 1978, FFRF has acted on countless violations of the separation of state and church, and has taken and won many significant complaints and important lawsuits to end state/church entanglements and challenge the “faith-based initiative.

  • Dawn Sillers

    If the people of Honesdale knuckle down to this group what’s next? It’s time to stand up for our rights, and say ” Bring it on”.

  • Silverfish Imperetrix

    Ignore their letters, ignore their lawsuits, and if and when the time comes, have a ring of armed patriots around them to protect them. Let’s see who blinks first.

      • Silverfish Imperetrix

        Aww. How cute. As a matter of fact it does –
        Luke 22:36 – He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”
        As you saw with the Justice Kavanaugh conspiracy, we’re not going to lie down for you commie marxists anymore. The games are only beginning…

  • Mike DEredita

    I like both, especially the star. They’re part of the culture and history of Honesdale. Leave them be.

  • Ozzy sister

    Apparently the letter writer doesnt understand the meaning behind separatoon of Church and State. “Congress shall make no LAW respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Having a lit Star or Cross is NOT making a law based on religion. So take your pathetic quest to be self righteous out of our town!

  • James Walker

    Honesdale as well as any community being threatened by these groups should donate that property to their local Volunteer Fire Company, end of problem.

  • Rusty Knyffe

    Feeling offended is offensive and oppressive. I demand that everyone sit still, keep their mouths shut, and voice no opinions or views because SOMEONE is going to be offended.

    Oppression? Omigawd, that’s the most ridiculous association I’ve ever read. The only “oppression” in Christianity was/is that which has been created by mankind, not the Creator. Let’s talk about oppressive religions, why not? Oh, that’s right. To point out obvious and glaring facts would seem insensitive.

    • トムソン ジョージ

      Where are you seeing a claim of offense in the article?

      Using government to endorse or advance any religion is oppressive and imposes upon the citizen religious rights that our founders fought for.

  • Lloyd Russell

    I am an atheist and a firm believer in the separation of church and state. This cross doesn’t even bother me a LITTLE, leave it alone. Your looking for oppression that doesn’t exist.

  • Kurt SC

    The star is not a Christmas symbol it is a symbol of the holiday season yes the cross is a religious symbol but it’s only live for one week out of the year if they attempt to take the star and the crosstown I will handcuff myself personally to the structure to stop it from happening it is been there since I was a little kid that was a symbol of the holiday season for me to see the star late on nerving class if they want to push the issue maybe we should sell the cliff to a private concern this way then it would be on private property I’m off for separation of church and state but this is an issue that should not never come up again the star in the cross stays it is been years it’s a small town and where the hell would you put the thing anyway it is huge and the guy said it should be with one of the churches has he been up there has he seen how big the thing is and he’s probably not even in need of a pounds down

    • Jesse L Tucker

      That’s the Christian spirit, believe the same nonsense I do for no good reason or be tortured for eternity.

  • Lance Grach

    Well the holiday is Christmas. I know having a cross would make sense along with the star. So the people that complain want to be a public nuisance. Ignore them keep the symbols. The majority wants it.

    • beekeeper

      What the majority wants isn’t actually at all relevant, not should it be. The worst atrocities have been committed with “the majority wants” as justification.

  • campsues

    Ok want to get creative? Have the borough lease the little bit of space to an individual or non profit then the star or cross is not on public property!

  • Brian Coates

    When was the last time someone from the Freedom From Religion Foundation voted in the local election in Honesdale for mayor and council? If the answer is never, they can take their letter and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine because they have no business telling the mayor and council in Honesdale, PA what to do.

  • George Zatorsky

    Freedom From Religion Foundation A Husband and wife Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker. Two American atheist
    Trouble Makers from Madison, WI. Most likely Liberal Democrats who should stay out of Pennsylvania and mind their own business.

    • Patty MacDonald

      “Most likely Liberal Democrats” Mr. Zatorsky, the background information you provided about the group that sent the letter may or may not be true. I have not done my own research yet. However, your personal assessment of them being “Liberal Democrats” has no basis in the facts you revealed. How about for once, just for the novelty of it, politics is NOT made an issue in a discussion?

      • Silverfish Imperetrix

        Oh, please…of course they’re commie democrats. They know better than anyone else and they want to impose their world-of-crap on you.

  • Dave Palovchak (@davpal66)

    yes this is what people need to be complaining about- just something else to cause stirring up and controversy over. Make sure you have a copy of the Constitution ready when you are asked by God why you did not want God on public land- I’m sure it will go very far when you are asked why you are restricting his presence and acknowledgement and existence. After all man’s laws overrule God’s– right? That’s why we are constantly in trouble and turmoil in this country.

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