MIAMI –– A 34-foot-tall Latin Cross in a Pensacola city park must be removed, a federal appellate court has ruled.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on Sept. 7 a lower court’s decision calling for the removal of the cross in Bayview Park.
Amanda Kondrat’Yev, Andreiy Konrat’Yev, Andre Ryland and David Suhor sued the city of Pensacola, saying the upkeep of the concrete cross infringed on the First Amendment’s establishment clause. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida agreed with the plaintiffs.
Considering the 75-year history of the cross in the park, the city appealed. The appeals court backed the lower court’s decision, saying it was "bound by existing circuit precedent."
The appeals court had to answer the question of whether the city’s upkeep of the cross is considered an “establishment of religion,” which is banned by the First Amendment.
The concrete cross was first built in 1969 to replace a wooden cross erected in 1941. The cross has served as the focal point for the city's annual Easter sunrise program. The Pensacola Chamber of Commerce donated the cross to the city. Maintenance costs are roughly $233 a year.
The appeals court had to answer the question whether the city’s upkeep of the cross is considered an “establishment of religion,” which is banned by the First Amendment.
In the appeal, attorneys for Pensacola argued that no one has suffered any injury because of the cross.
The appeals court disagreed, citing a 1983 case concerning a cross erected in Black Rock Mountain State Park. That cross was also deemed a violation of the establishment clause.