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Cross Landmark in Illinois Gets State Funds, Atheist Sues

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 (4:03 am)
Posted in: Court Cases, U.S. News

by Marshall Ramsey II, Worthy News U.S. Correspondent

Springfield, IL (Worthy News)– An atheist is suing to force the administrators of a 11-story tall cross in Illinois to return a $20,000 state grant issued toward its restoration, Worthy News has learned.

Rob Sherman has sued the state of Illinois for what he calls a "blatantly unconstitutional" use of taxpayer funds. Bald Knob Cross of Peace, an 11-story monument near Alto Pass, IL, roughly 130 miles southwest of St. Louis, received the state grant in mid-2008 after being classified as a tourist attraction, and not as a religious symbol.

Mr. Sherman disagrees with the classification of the cross, thinking the church is trying to use back-door tactics to gain state funds for religious purposes. According to the lawsuit, the restoration project "has the primary effect of advancing a particular religious sect, namely Christianity," with taxpayer funding causing an "excessive entanglement" between Church and State.

He argues that the grant violates the U.S. Constitution's establishment clause, which is used by civil liberties groups to promote a separation of religious (church) involvement in governmental affairs.

Mr. Sherman considers it "the job of atheists is to take clergy to court to challenge the epidemic of civil wrongs they have perpetrated, on the sneak against the people of Illinois." He further stated, "It's a big job, but somebody's got to do it."


Steve McKeown, an administrator of the cross landmark and a pastor was confident Mr. Sherman would not win the case. "What Mr. Sherman fails to recognize is there's a long-standing precedent for the fact that just because an organization may have a sectarian purpose, it does not exempt them automatically from receiving tax dollars," McKeown told AP. "What Mr. Sherman wants is a United States free from religion. Our founding fathers never meant that to be the case."

According to the Associated Press, the cross was built largely by profits from local farmers selling their pigs. The cross has been a fixture on Bald Knob Mountain for 50 years. Over the decades, the cross and its porcelain tiles fell into disrepair, prompting its caretakers to launch a bid to raise about $500,000 for its restoration.

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  • Bruce in Orlando

    As I read it, Steve McKeown's statement "just because an organization may have a sectarian purpose, it does not exempt them automatically from receiving tax dollars" does not jive with the law. Tax dollars are scarce right now.

    (Illinois Constitution.)
    Neither the General Assembly nor any county, city, town, township, school district, or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation or pay from any public fund whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatever; nor shall any grant or donation of land, money, or other personal property ever be made by the State, or any such public corporation, to any church, or for any sectarian purpose.

  • Rob

    It's bad enough that the public already pays for the short falls created by the tax exempt status of these recognized cults and their lands, but now these so called Christians want the public to pay for the repairs to their graven images too? Too bad these people don't practice what their ancient book preaches. Redonkulous. Religion is nothing more than dangerous superstitions. Wake up!

  • Cass VanDerMeer

    I live in DuQuoin and I have been disturbed each year when the manger and such go up on the courthouse grounds in Pinckneyville. i want to support you and your fight in Marion. I believe in religious freedom but I also believe that my taxes should not go to any religion. Please let me know what I can do to support religious freedom to or FROM in Southern Illinois.

    I am not an atheist I am a nothing and want no government in my ideas!
    cass vandermeer

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