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

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.