Effort to Save Religious Symbols in Honesdale

HONESDALE, Pa. -- The fight to keep religious symbols in a public park in Honesdale is spreading.

People are placing their own cross and star symbols at their homes and businesses in an effort to show they want both to stay.

The cross and star were first lit back in the mid-1950s on Irving Cliff. The symbols are in a public park overlooking the downtown

When folks found out the borough was asked to take down both of these symbols because they were challenged on constitutional grounds, dozens started erecting symbols of their own.

In the past week, there are more and more stars and crosses and the message "Honesdale Strong" in the windows of businesses downtown and front yards.

"While I was putting it in, people were honking their horns," Honesdale resident Bill Hamilton said.

Hamilton built a display in front of his home on Cliff Street. He's joined the effort to save the cross and star on top of Irving Cliff.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the borough months ago saying both symbols violate the First Amendment and the organization could take legal action.

"If they can find a peaceful solution to it, that's what we want with it," Hamilton added.

Residents and business owners in the area have been showing solidarity for the longtime symbols that have stood over the borough. It's still unclear what will happen to the symbols. Borough council is set to meet and discuss what's next at a later date.

"It really unified our town in so many great ways. If star and cross have to come down, there are so many more popping up and excited to see what we can do after this," said Dani Cortese.

"It's a key centerpiece to our holiday celebrations, very important to the town," Jerry Decrotie said.

Decrotie designed stickers to raise funds with the money going to help preserve the longtime symbols somehow.

So far, Decrotie and others think relocating the cross and star to private property may be the end result.

"Looking at it from a legal standpoint, I think that is going to have to be the solution."

Decrotie says people are free to put a star and cross on their property and so that's what they're doing. That's exactly the argument from the group against the symbols which have been in a public park for generations.

27 comments

  • 16viewer

    American society has become a hostage to the first amendment. That which was designed to insure our freedom is being used to thwart it.

    • トムソン ジョージ

      How do you think that The 1st Amendment entitles citizens to install permanent religious displays on government property?

      Our government has no religious rights. It’s not a citizen. Citizens have religious rights. Citizens do not have a right to do whatever they want with government property.

      • Andrew Shecktor

        Who says the government has no rights? State and local governments are allowed to pass laws and legislate on anything not governed by the Constitution. The Constitution says nothing about state or local governments having religious or other icons on their property. In fact, the government property is owned by the citizens, therefore the citizens have the right to determine what resides on state and local government property unless otherwise restricted by law. There is NO separation of church and state! Never has been.

      • トムソン ジョージ

        Andrew, The Constitution only recognizes rights for citizens. Prohibitions are applied to our government as it’s inherently more powerful than individual citizens. Can you show me any place in our Constitution where rights are recognized for our government?

        One prohibition applied to our government addresses endorsing or advancing a religion. At the state and federal level our government is prohibited from doing so. The phrase “separation of church and state” is a reference to that and several other qualities of our Constitution.

      • Andrew Shecktor

        Tenth amendment “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

      • トムソン ジョージ

        Thank you for confirming my point. These powers and prohibitions are addressed, so they don’t default to some mix of state and people.

      • Andrew Shecktor

        Not sure I understand your response. The Constitution sets no rules on religion for the states or people, therefore it is at the discretion of the states and people to implement any rules as needed. There are no rules or regulations that would apply in this situation.

      • トムソン ジョージ

        Andrew, these religious rights are recognized for the people. That is a power granted to each citizen regarding their own conscience in relation to religious practice. Madison addresses this in his “Memorial and Remonstrance against
        Religious Assessments” written in opposition to a Virginia state tax for churches.

      • Andrew Shecktor

        I agree, and I am done with this conversation. There is no helping you. Yes, I agree in your last comment. Indeed though, it is the people who own the government land by way of their taxes. Therefore, the people have the right to choose what resides on that property. Don’t try and convince me otherwise.

      • トムソン ジョージ

        Andrew, if you wish to be willfully ignorant of national law and our access and usage of public property… that’s your choice. In a sense we do all own public property. It is entrusted to our government for usage, access, and maintenance. That doesn’t entail unrestricted access by all citizens. If you disagree, feel free to march onto a secured military facility without showing any ID or access pass and see if they agree with your having unrestricted access as a citizen.

        Given your obtuse and ill-informed opinions, I’m glad to see that you didn’t make it to the ballot.

        Have a nice life!

      • Andrew Shecktor

        I guess a final comment is warranted. As an elected member of our Council we hear all sorts of requests by the citizens for various thing – a park, a Christmas display, a walk or run, etc… We voted in a Veterans memorial park. If the citizens want a star or other symbol that is not offensive, we would vote on that too, and listen to any objections. I don’t think the government should dictate the will and desires of the residents. If there is a problem with something as times change, we vote to remove that problem or change the rules. Certainly a Christian cross might not be appreciated in a Jewish community, but a star of David would not be. Our communities should be “personalized” to the people living therein. Local government is not insensitive to the community needs, and no one likes being “jack-booted” by a group of thugs, particularly those not living within the community.

      • トムソン ジョージ

        Andrew, permanent access to government property for religious iconography isn’t up for a vote. Our government is bound by The Establishment Clause to not give special or preferential treatment to any one religion. If a citizen wishes to temporarily use property for religious purposes, that’s acceptable within limits. If one religions iconography is installed then it must be removed after a reasonable time or an open forum for all religions must be declared. If it’s not an open forum and the iconography is maintained on government property, then it is preferential treatment for that religion which violates The Establishment Clause as it’s our government establishing that religion and preferred or favored.

        This has nothing to do with jack-boots or insensitivity and everything to do with equal recognition of religious rights and respect being given to all citizens in that regard. …not just one religion.

        If you fail to understand that this is not up for a vote, please read about the East Ramapo School District and an issue they had with a religious majority seizing control of the school budget to the detriment of all local children.

        Really tho, if you don’t respect the religious rights of non-Christians then you should just admit it.

      • Andrew Shecktor

        OK, so first, I have no qualm with any religion. Second, the Supreme Court has made several decisions on new permanent fixtures on government property – still up for debate. Third, to answer the question of the Honesdale monument you should refer to Van Orden v. Perry, 545 U.S. 677 (2005), and McCreary County v. ACLU, 545 U.S. 844 (2005) and Salazar v. Buono (08-472). It has pretty much ruled in all cases that a long existing religious fixture should be permitted to stand. As for my personal opinion – I would reject any request for any religious icon in our community on government land because I believe that it is not the place for it. However, if we had such an icon from times past I would fight to the end to keep it standing. It has been proven also in the courts that temporary displays and fixtures are permitted. There have been challenges to such displays in the past, but not permitting them violates the first amendment.

      • トムソン ジョージ

        Andrew, that’s great to hear! Having no qualms is different from respecting every citizens religious rights.

        I also take no issue with temporary installations that are maintained by the individual as long as other religions get equal treatment and the display is removed when appropriate and reasonable.

        There are other rulings that conflict with Van Orden v. Perry, McCreary County v. ACLU, and Salazar v. Buono, identifying the issue of preferential treatment for religious iconography. None of these to my knowledge identify the cutoff or point of grandfathering something as a fixture or long stating installation, and none of the rulings to my knowledge address the preferential treatment of the related religions. Is there a reason why these fixtures couldn’t be relocated to appropriate venues or the land and responsibility auctioned to private individuals or organizations who aren’t bound by The Establishment Clause?

      • Andrew Shecktor

        We finally find each other to be in close agreement. If only all people and politicians could achieve this! As for moving to private land, this certainly would be the preferred resolution. Religious icons should be on private property in my personal opinion. So should any other private enterprise. In the case of Honesdale from what I gather the property cannot be converted back to private ownership by an agreement previously made, and there is really no other place to put it (anyone else who wants to clarify this may chime in!) Also, it is a long standing historical icon, Therefore it has secular as well as religious significance and is protected according to various Supreme Court decisions. Hence my reason for supporting this cause.

      • トムソン ジョージ

        Andrew, I’d say that the star is not an issue. If the cross illumination is disabled it would cease to be a government display of religious favoritism. I’d possibly consider the “longstanding” claim if it didn’t require electricity and regular maintenance for the display to be illuminated at the expense of all tax payers. That expense becomes a government enforced tithe to benefit one religion, which removes the freedom of conscience of each citizen.

  • Andrew Shecktor

    The “Freedom From Religion” organization is an anti-constitution terrorist organization and should be stopped. It’s very name is the antithesis of our Constitution “Freedom OF Religion.” I hope Honesdale stands fast and takes on this awful group. This is a national problem and needs to be stopped.

      • Andrew Shecktor

        This organization has gone after religious groups and practices and has forced them to defend themselves rather than challenge the law of the Constitution itself. While they have thrown no stones they deny citizens and communities of their constitutional rights by jackbooting them with costly legal challenges. There is NO separation of church and state. Never has been. We should not be forced to defend ourselves against God hating thugs. The Constitution only states that CONGRESS shall make no laws regarding religion. Local government is not Congress, and the mere presence of a religious icon does not imply a religious law. If another religion wants to put up an icon in Honesdale, they can petition the Council to do so. If someone wants to remove the star and cross that is there, they can petition the Council. It should be the will and desire of the people, not the government. If the government rules that a religious icon is to be removed or to not be present on government property they have created a law against religion – which is unconstitutional.

    • トムソン ジョージ

      Andrew, that’s not correct. The FFRF primarily “goes after” government organizations that are exercising religious rights that our government doesn’t have. Our government exercising religious rights automatically impacts and imposes upon citizen religious rights.

      If the people have a will to display religious iconography, they’re free to do so using their own resources. Government resources aren’t open to abuse by the public.

      P.S. To have a robust freedom of religion one must also be free from obligations to religions that a person doesn’t wish to follow. If you’re a Christian then you’re free from Islam, Hinduism, Satanism, Buddhism, and any other religion that you don’t wish to practice. Thus, a freedom *of* religion must also include a freedom *from* religion.

  • whopperplopper

    congratulations honesdale, it’s great to see people stand up for their rights.
    the losers that want it down should rot in h**l

Comments are closed.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.