Freedom From Religion Foundation aims to take down La Crescent landmark

La Crescent officials are holding a listening session Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Residents of La Crescent are being asked to voice their opinion at a listening session Tuesday about a religious symbol that has become quite controversial over the past few months.

A group based out of Madison, called the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is asking the city of La Crescent to remove what is known as the La Crescent cross and star landmark.

The group argues it’s a religious symbol on public property but residents in La Crescent are banning together to show their support for the display that’s been there for about a half a century

When you drive through La Crescent Minnesota, it’s hard not to notice the bright white signs among the changing fall colors. The signs read, “I live by the cross and star” and they are lined along the streets.

La Crescent resident Gwynne Mishler said she doesn’t have a sign in her yard but she supports the cause.

“We tell people to follow the star when they come to visit us and don’t know where we live,” Mishler.

But Mishler’s directions to her house may soon have to change if an organization based in Madison gets its way and the cross and star are removed.

“The Freedom From Religion Foundation had sent a letter asking them to remove that religious display from the bluff it is on public property, government property,” said Rebecca Markert, a staff attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The group’s attorney said it’s illegal for a city government to place religious symbols on public land.

“This is an unusual one because it is a star and cross and they alternate the star at Christmas time and the cross at Easter time which evidences a religious purpose. They are celebrating the religious aspects of the holidays which the government is not allowed to do,” said Markert.

But Mishler said there’s a difference.

“Separation of church and state is the freedom of religion, that means citizens of the country can worship or not worship anyone or anything they choose,” said Mishler. “Freedom from religion is not what our constitution says, everyone is free to choose what they would like to worship or not worship so I think that is an important distinction.”

And judging by the amount of support along the streets Mishler is not alone in hoping that the sun doesn’t set on their cross and star anytime soon.

“It’s been a La Crescent land mark for close to 50 years,” said Mishler.

The attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation said they have not filed a lawsuit against La Crescent. They are hoping to solve this problem outside of court because it is expensive to taxpayers and often takes a long time.

The listening session started at 5 p.m. at the La Crescent Community Building.