Pastor: Calls to remove Lynn Mountain crosses are ‘bringing more attention to Christ’

Published 8:50 pm Friday, March 18, 2022

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
Efforts by a national organization to have the crosses on Lynn Mountain removed seem to be creating more public support for the display.
“They are going to keep attacking this issue until it goes through and if they take those crosses down off that mountain, they will never be able to take Christ out of my heart,” said the Rev. Jody Bewley, Pastor of Roan Street Church of God in Elizabethton.
“I appreciate them calling attention to those crosses up on that mountain just in time for Easter. They have brought the Cross of Christ to the forefront right at Easter season and they are helping to draw attention to Christ at this time of year so they are really helping us. Those crosses have been up there for so long that most people that are driving around don’t even take time to look up there. And now here we are at the Easter season and this organization is against the cross but all they are doing is bringing more attention to Christ.”
The Foundation for Religious Freedom this week sent a letter to the City of Elizabethton asking Elizabethton to remove crosses and a Christian banner from the top of the mountain.
“Our concern remains that the city of Elizabethton is maintaining an unconstitutional religious display on city property,” FFRF Legal Fellow Karen Heineman wrote to Elizabethton City Attorney Roger G. Day. “As you are likely aware, since our original letter of complaint, the U.S. Supreme Court has modified its analysis for Establishment Clause violations concerning ‘established, religiously expressive monuments, symbols, and practices.’” (American Legion v. American Humanist Association, 2019)
In the 1950’s, the crosses were placed on Lynn Mountain in Elizabethton by a group of boys who were challenged by their Sunday School teacher to do something unusual for Easter. The activity reportedly “almost landed them in jail” for cutting trees and clearing the land without permission.
Elizabethton City Manager Daniel Estes released a statement Friday afternoon in regard to the letter received from the foundation.
“The City of Elizabethton has received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, of Madison, Wisconsin, regarding their objection to a display on Lynn Mountain. City staff will take the matter under advisement from legal counsel. Authority to take any action on this matter is vested in the Elizabethton City Council. Due to the potential threat of litigation, no further comment will be made at this time.”
However, the public is making its opinion known on social media. More than 1,300 people had responded to the Star’s survey by 5:00 p.m., with 97% of the respondents in favor of keeping the crosses.
More than 600 comments were made on the Star’s Facebook page story posting.
“Well after reading the article the city should sell the small plot that the crosses and sign occupy to a private land owner and then this organization has no ground to stand on,” said Philip Arrington. “While I believe it is ridiculous to try and force them to take them down and they need to stay standing. This organization is headquartered in Wisconsin, it would be different if there was a major problem in the actual city of Elizabethton. The community at large sees no issue in the crosses or the message they imply, so why is it a concern for people who do not even live here?”
Others said the crosses are a touchstone for the community.
“I grew up in TN and still have family there and visit quite often. I also grew up with these crosses. They have provided much comfort as I pass through,” said Debbie Gragg.
I’m not a religious person, but I’m all for religious freedom. I personally think the symbolism of the crosses are a little morbid, but I would never try to tell someone they can’t display them,” said Becky Pohle.
Check back on this article as it is a developing story.

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