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."
REACTION FROM LANDMARK ADMINISTRATORS
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.