Group can’t display 12-foot cross at city park, federal judge rules

Friday, July 4, 2008

NORFOLK, Va. — A federal judge has denied a Christian group's request to display a 12-foot cross at a Fourth of July celebration at a city park in Chesapeake.

U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar denied the application of Christian Rights Ministries. The ministries said it was told last year to remove the religious symbol after the group said city workers called the cross “too blatantly Christian.”

At the July 1 court hearing in Norfolk, however, the workers said they had the cross removed for safety reasons.

Ministries founder Steve Taylor filed the civil rights suit against Chesapeake and asked for an injunction to force the city to allow the cross at this year's celebration.

The Virginian-Pilot reported on July 2 that Doumar said Chesapeake’s new restriction banning objects taller than 8 feet was justified.

The newspaper quoted Doumar as saying: “This is not suppression of speech — it’s clearly a case of how loud that speech can be.”

Chesapeake's city attorney, Jeffrey Salb, said other Christian groups have participated in the celebration without incident.

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