City of Ozark, Mo. makes decision on future of cross in Finley River Park

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OZARK, Mo. -- The city of Ozark, Mo. announced Friday it will leave up a pole that holds a cross in Finley River Park. But the arms of the cross will come down for now.

The 30-foot cross had stood tall throughout the entire year. The city lights it up as part of its light display in the park during the holiday season. That display ends Sunday, December 30.

Freedom From Religion, a group out of Wisconsin, asked the symbol be removed permanently. Rebecca Markert, Legal Director with Freedom from Religion, believes that is the best solution.

"We don't think that is a viable solution and certainly not a permanent solution," Markert said. "The fact of the matter is the city of Ozark has been hosting a religious symbol on government property for religious purposes."

Markert says they are a membership organization with more than 300 members in Missouri. One of their members from Ozark filed the complaint about the cross.

City leaders say the cross was originally constructed with arms that could be lowered once the annual light display is finished. They say the immediate solution will be to leave the three-story structure and supporting wooden pole in its current location, but lower the horizontal arms of the cross. The city is continuing to evaluate all options for a long term and legal solution for the cross.

"I think it'll look silly," Heaven Brownd, local resident, said.

Brownd recently moved to the Ozarks. She says the cross is an important symbol to her. She believes it should remain standing.

"I think if they were to take it down we would lose something special and something that makes us unique," Brownd said.

Initially, city leaders said they would shut off the lights on the cross and remove it. Then after community outrage, they decided the cross would stay up and stay lit throughout the holiday light display.