Stratton takes down crosses

STRATTON – Village Mayor John Abdalla says he still doesn’t understand why someone would complain about crosses that have graced the Village Municipal Building for decades.

The village recently took down the crosses after getting letters from the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation that contained threats of legal action if the village didn’t remove the crosses. Abdalla said he had no recourse but to remove the crosses after discussing the matter with the village solicitor. But he said he still doesn’t appreciate it.

“I don’t like it – not one bit,” said the mayor. “Worse, I can’t find out who is (behind this). This is very upsetting. Those crosses have been there for years. The (Freedom From Religion Foundation) even sent pictures of the crosses.”

Abdalla said the letters from the foundation began coming last year, complaining about the crosses and other religious symbols on village property.

“I refused to remove them at first,” he said, adding he was advised by counsel to take down the crosses. “I have them for safekeeping. (The foundation) even raised hell about the manger scene at the front of the building.”

Abdalla said he doesn’t believe the initial complaint came from the foundation, because “they wouldn’t send someone down here from Wisconsin to take pictures. This was from someone local.”

Abdalla said in the decades the crosses have been there no one had complained.

“People would compliment us on the crosses,” he said, adding they were large and prominent. “People would stop and take pictures of them.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the same organization that threatened Steubenville with legal action after a cross was incorporated into the city’s proposed logo. The city at the time decided not to recognize the logo as official.

Abdalla said there still was one cross on the village watertower yet to be taken down, “but the weather’s been too bad.” He added village employees removed the crosses, and it’s cost the village money to do so.

“One of the crosses is going to the Empire United Methodist Church,” said Abdalla, adding everyone he’s talked to is upset over the matter. “It’s all over Facebook, and people are upset about it.”