Cross in Ozark, Mo. will shine brightly for now

Published: Dec. 11, 2018 at 9:43 PM CST
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The city of Ozark, Mo. has kept its large cross lit Tuesday night in the Finley River Park,

The symbol has brought many to the park to take a look.

"(My granddaughters) just wanted to come and see the lights," William Junior DeLong, local resident, said.

The DeLong's visit the holiday light display in Finley River Park each year. They say the cross is an important part.

"I thought well why would anyone fuss about that cross being in the park," DeLong said.

Freedom From Religion, a group out of Wisconsin, asks the symbol be removed permanently. The cross stands year-round in Finley River Park and is part of the light display each season. Attorney Dee Wampler says cases like these pop up each year around the holiday season.

"It's every Christmas we have these issues everywhere," Wampler said.

However, Wampler says as long as the cross is part of the light display during the holidays, it is legal.

"Absolutely, perfectly 1000 percent legal," Wampler said. "Totally legal as long as the city decorates with other decorations like Frosty the Snowman."

But after the holiday season, the case of the cross is unknown.

"A large cross on city property, alone, by itself, you cannot do that," Wampler said. "That prefers one religion over the other."

Wampler says the bottom line is that a city cannot promote one religion over the other. Therefore, they must have multiple religions represented at once or none.

The city of Ozark says they will keep the cross lit for now. They are weighing their options and looking into the legalities.

Organizers with Freedom from Religion say they are a membership organization and have more than 300 members in Missouri. One of their members from Ozark, Mo. filed a complaint about the cross.