Residents Resist Call to Remove Cross and Star in Honesdale

HONESDALE, Pa. -- A cross and star in a Wayne County community are the centers of controversy, and now an effort is underway to keep them in the face of a possible legal battle.

Newswatch 16 first told you Monday about the letter objecting to the cross and star in a public park in Honesdale.

Almost immediately, folks in the area started a campaign to keep both symbols where they are.

The star has been up for about 50 years on Irving Cliff in Gibbons Park, which was given to the borough of Honesdale solely as a public park.

Now, both the star and cross that shine during Christmas and Easter could be in jeopardy after an organization asked the borough to take them down, saying they violate the First Amendment.

Shortly after our initial story aired, it was a packed house at the Honesdale borough council meeting Monday night.

Community members were worried and upset that longstanding symbols of the Easter and Christmas season would have to go.

"I don't think most of the people involved are going to see any solution other than it staying there," said resident Jeff Hiller.

Hiller was one of the many who spoke out against the possibility of removing both symbols.

But the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter back in June saying both symbols are in violation of the Constitution.

"It is heritage. It is tradition. It does have resemblance of religion, but that's OK," said resident Suzie Frisch.

Honesdale council only just learned of the letter after the mayor failed to share it, and attorneys are now looking at the borough's options, but a grassroots group is now leading the effort to keep both.

"I feel the blunder started in the mayor's office, truth be told. It's a shame that now here we are. Time is of the essence. Santa is coming to town," Frisch said.

"I see where the public would be there to back them up with that lawsuit. I think monetarily to fight this because somebody's got to stop," Hiller said.

A person in our story Monday claimed Christians outnumber other religions in the Honesdale area. However, Congregation Beth Israel has been around since the mid-1800s -- Jewish folks who practice a different faith than Christianity.

"It's kind of to me a non-issue," said Martha Sader, Congregation Beth Israel.

"The star and cross should stay?"

"Well, yes," Sader replied.

The holiday season is a little more than a month away, and folks in Honesdale are adamant the star will be shining bright in spite of the constitutional challenge.

"Nobody can imagine it not being lit up," Frisch added.

We spoke with someone from the Freedom From Religion Foundation which sent that letter. The organization is waiting for a response from the borough and has not ruled out taking legal action.

A similar instance recently led to Carbondale moving a nativity scene from City Hall to the YMCA.

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28 comments

  • Ocar Holiday

    Idea… If you add two additional small displays you can claim you are celebrating mathematics. “/” for division, “-” for subtraction. These two would new displays albeit much smaller due to budget constraints would compliment the cross you already have “+” for addition, and the star “*” for multiplication. Say you are promoting math skills.

  • SamStone

    There is numerous court decisions addressing this issue. Basically, secular symbols, such as Santa and Rudolf, are fine, but religious symbols, such as crosses or the Star of Bethlehem, are not. Why not just abide the law and remove the religious symbols from public property? Why is obeying established legal precedent so hard?

  • catman5308@yahoo.com

    those who complain are doing nothing more than trying to undermine society, wanting to cause trouble, nothing more. check to see who really is behind the complaints, trace the money, would not be surprised to see it go all the way back to an anarchist p.o.s. like George Soros

  • Feed Me More

    religion is holding this country back. whether it be religion with a god, or religiously believing in a political party with no exceptions. a revamp of the education system would alleviate a lot of these problems as well turning all churches into something useful like libraries or homeless shelters for all the displaced veterans.

  • rcarson79

    I am sorry but our Bill of Rights gives us freedom of religion. Just because there is a star or a cross or whatever does not mean you have to be a Christian. We have the right to choose what religion we want to follow, BUT we do not have the right to tell others or take away from others their religion. Taking the cross and star down is violating the First Amendment in my opinion. It is inevitable that whatever one person puts up to represent their religion another person will be offended. That is what is great about our country, Freedom of Religion. If you have a problem with that then go live in Iraq I am sure you will not like it there.

    • Brian Westley

      People have freedom of religion, towns do not. You can put a star and cross on your own property, but public property belongs to everyone, not just selfish Christians. Many similar religious symbols have been removed, sometimes after expensive litigation.

      • rcarson79

        That is where your narrow mind is wrong. The people own the town, the people own the country. Read the constitution. The first three words are “We the people”. We run the country not the politicians in the government. When they officially take it over then we are no longer a democracy.

      • beekeeper

        We’re not a democracy. We’re a constitutional republic. Government doesn’t have the authority to in any way promote any religion. No such authority is granted by the Constitution.

    • Eric Barton

      The problem is these groups that have way to much time and money. Absolutely no reason this town shouldn’t be able to continue their tradition. Nobody is being forced to adopt their religion.

      • Adam Valentine

        “Forced adoption” is not the test for wether a constitutional violation has occurred. Neither is offense. And history/duration of the violation is not an excuse to keep it.