This is the APPLE Biter Blog, commentary and news on local religion and secular government.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bayview Cross - Prior Cross Efforts, LARGER Replacement, Alt.Monument, Public Records Requests

I learned some interesting news this weekend.  Maybe 15 years ago, another group of citizens tried to work with the City to make the Bayview cross convertible - so it would not stand year round.  Their suggestion was to hinge it or make it removable - same as I suggested before engaging attorneys.  How did the City respond?  They put it off and said some changes were in the works for the park.  Apparently, for the cross, they were:

A NEW, LARGER cross (the one currently in place) was installed!!  I now have a public records request in to find out who paid for said newer, larger cross.  The current one eclipses the cross alleged to be placed at Calvary.  It's about 20 feet tall and quite thick.  I suspect it was erected by the City a taxpayer expense.  At the very least, they helped.  We'll see.

I've also noted that the cross has lighting on it.  Recently, it has been turned off - perhaps due to the controversy.  I have strong suspicions that the City has been paying to light the cross at night for years.  It's just more indication of the privilege and monetary support afforded to Christians by the City of Pensacola.

I've asked the mayor and Parks department (for a 4th time in a month) how one might apply to place another religious monument next to the cross.  Still no answer.

Finally, I've made a public request to the City for rental applications for previous Easter celebrations at the cross.  I want to be sure the churches who sponsor these events are paying for use of the space and providing liability insurance, cleanup, etc - as every secular group is required to do.  If not, the City will have some 'splaining' to do.

Stay tuned.

Rally for Bayview Cross = FAIL (WEAR Stories)

There was to be a "rally" in support of the Bayview cross on August 15th, 6pm.

Here's WEAR's story:

Background: I called Monday to see if they had reserved the space.  I was told they had not and it was not required - free speech, free to gather and all.  NOTE: There is a deadline on the rental agreements of two-weeks beforehand - obviously not met.  I dropped in Saturday (5:30-ish) and they had set up a sound system, using the electricity reserved for those reserving the space.  I asked and was told they had reserved the space and was told yes... therefore, I could not share the space.  No incident ensued.  I said a Pagan prayer of protection beneath the cross (while they sang and played over me), then left.

The event itself?  FAIL!  Here's the follow-up news story (from the page of one of the organizers):
**check out the kitty with the crown - classic Christian camp!

"Several" people attended.  Guess what?  The support often ends when actual action (not just Facebook comments and emails) is required.

I am following up about the application to use the space and waiving of the two-week deadline.  I also want to be sure they paid for the space, as required for everyone else.  Let's hope this doesn't prove to be more Christian privilege practiced by the City.

Frankly, I'm glad this rally was held.  It showed exactly what we needed to prove that the cross is not a secular symbol or mere art piece.  It is a purely religious nod to local Christians.  It serves no secular purpose whatever.  Even the minister (?)  who spoke said that removing it would be "like trying to bring a church down"... yes, from public land.  BTW, Bayview park is not the only place where outdoor Easter services are held.  There are SEVERAL around town and on the beach. Thanks for the damning quote, though!

Top Ten Social Media Responses to Bayview Cross

As shared at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Pensacola 8/16/2015:

Beyond blaming me for bringing a legitimate legal issue to the City, beyond posting my name and address, beyond and suggesting folks visit my house with torches and pitchforks, HERE are social media's

TOP TEN responses to the idea of removing the giant cross from Bayview Park:
10 Can't these hateful people focus on helping folks instead of hurting us!
9 Tell those Washington, DC outsiders to go to Hell.  This is OUR city.
8 If you don't like it, move away, look away, or go to another park.
7 It's not just OUR Christian symbol; it reminds EVERYONE of Jesus's love.
6 It's been there forever.  WHY are you complaining about it now?
5 If don't take a stand, they'll come after ALL the church crosses next.
4 We are majority-Christian and our laws are based on Christian teachings.
3 Cut a a square around the cross and give the land to a church.  Issue settled.
2 It doesn't hurt you, so leave it alone and stop trying to take away our stuff!
...and the #1 response to removing the giant cross from Bayview park:
1 I'm offended that you're offended by our beloved cross!
> BTW: I am not offended the cross.  It just doesn't belong on public land.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pensacola News Journal Coverage (+ WEAR)

Will Isern is doing a generally good job covering this.  Unfortunately, there is little legal news from the City, only the political angle, which makes better copy.

Initial story, slightly edited when City responded:

Troy Moon's editorial, supporting the cross:

Update, where the City rejects the idea of removing the cross:

**To find the HUGE (and ignorant, mostly legally irrelevant) social media backlash in social media, find these articles on the Pensacola News Journal's Facebook page.

WEAR TV3 also did a story, much less detailed, but equally enraging to some locals (who like to mix church and state to their advantage) on social media.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Letter to City - Other Religious Monuments

Still no answer to this inquiry, sent of the weekend:

Mr Mayor, Mr Cooper, et al, 

I understand that the City wants to "respect all religions without showing preference to any”. In that vein, can you please tell me how one would apply to place another religious monument in Bayview Park?

I have been contacted by another group that has a religious statue available. They suggested I reach out to find out how it may be placed alongside the Bayview cross.

Your answer would be greatly appreciated.

David Suhor

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Regarding the Pensacola Beach Cross

Until the Bayview Cross controversy was brought to my attention, I never really considered the smaller, but better known concrete cross at Pensacola Beach. If anything, I thought it was a historic marker, placed on a particular spot for historical reason alone. Now I'm questioning that. Here's a pic, courtesy of Eddie Newkirk:

The cross's placement and plaque bring up several questions:

Is that the actual spot? More to the (constitutional) point, why is the landowner (the government, I assume) marking religious services, whenever they may have taken place? And why a Christian cross on public property, as opposed to a historic marker alone, on the correct spot? Could it be because those who placed the marker had a religious motive? And is this on federal or local property?  

As they say, history is written by the winners. This makes me wonder what was recorded in the public record when the beach cross was placed. Hopefully, that information can be found and examined. A resolution by the Santa Rosa Island Authority will perhaps reveal the true intentions. Maybe a news story has comment by those who permitted the cross. Maybe there was a public declaration, along with a permit.

If I had to guess from the little bit I know now, I would say this was another effort to 'mark the territory' as Christian. But I won't know that until I do more research. As with the Bayview park cross in Pensacola, I will keep an open mind and hope the record reveals itself. My personal hope is that this isn't about religion, but about actual history. Keep in mind, though, it was placed in the 50s, near the time "In God We Trust" was added to our paper currency and "One nation under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. Like the Bayview cross, it was the site of Easter services for many years to follow.
One article online said this of the beach cross:

"In May of 1954, the Knights of Columbus joined with the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Rosa Island Authority to erect the cross as a tribute to the religious milestone."

The website (sponsored by Santa Rosa Island Authority, an elected government board) says this:

The Island Cross stands tall on Pensacola Beach

The 10-foot, cast concrete cross on Pensacola Beach commemorates the first Christian mass held in the United States. The Knights of Columbus first placed it on the north side of Fort Pickens Road in 1959 as part of the quadricentennial celebration of Don Tristan de Luna's landing in Pensacola, establishing America's first European settlement. Some time later, the cross was moved to its current home on the south side of Fort Pickens Road.

The cross has stood firm through many bouts with Mother Nature, including, most recently, Hurricane Ivan, which flattened most gulf-front dunes for several miles east and west. So far, there is no scientific explanation as to why the dune and the cross have been spared so many times. According to several residents, the answer will never come from science but instead can be found from within.

Does that sound like a historical or religious motive? Or both?  And does that sound like an accurate, unbiased account of the "Island Cross"?

For the record, I don't think anyone has asked that this cross be removed from public land... yet. That would depend on the facts more than anything.