Community needs to fight to keep Lynn Mountain crosses

Published 12:40 pm Friday, March 18, 2022

Now is the time for Elizabethton and Carter County citizens to take a stand as they never have before. They need to have the same fight, grit, and determination the Ukrainians have as they fight Communist aggression.
A Wisconsin-based organization wants the City of Elizabethton to take down the three crosses on Lynn Mountain that overlook the City and have since 1953. Yes, it is an aggression by an outside organization that seeks to infringe on our rights as citizens. The crosses have become a landmark in our community, and part of our heritage.
At Christmastime, the center cross is turned into a lighted Christmas tree, which can be seen from several miles away. The Christmas tree greeting on the mountain had its beginning in 1956 by a group of Elizabethton policemen.
However, the crosses were originally placed on the mountain by a group of junior boys from First Free Will Baptist Church who were challenged by their Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Viola Phillips, to do something “unusual” at Easter time. It almost landed them in jail when a small group of the town’s citizens became irate over the cutting of trees and the clearing of a space at the top of the ridge for the crosses. They weren’t irate at the crosses, but the cutting of the trees.
Many of those boys, who grew up to be church leaders and fine citizens, have since died. However, they left a lasting legacy.
Both the junior boys and the policemen wanted to do something for the community. When good will is acted on, good and lasting things do happen.
However, the devil and his advocates are always on the prowl to stir up trouble and do away with good and that is what is happening now with the call by the Freedom from Religious Foundation to remove the crosses from the mountain because they are located on city property. The group claims it is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
But, Christians have rights, too. We just don’t exercise them like we should.
Karen Heineman, a legal fellow for the Freedom from Religious Foundation, said that the crosses “seem to have a pretty obvious Christian message. They are up there by themselves.” The foundation in an e-mail message said it reached out to the City in 2018 after receiving a complaint from a resident, but the City never responded. Perhaps, we need to call upon this resident to come forward and personally tell the community why they are so against the three crosses on the mountain. They need not hide behind an anti-Christian group.
Heineman admitted that no one from the organization has ever been to Elizabethton.
Elizabethton and Carter County has been through this before. In 1987, two families whose children attended public school in Carter County filed a class-action suit in federal court claiming that the school system had violated the constitutional First Amendment rights of students and their families by allowing CBM ministries to host religious activities in the schools during school hours.
CBM Ministries, Carter County School Board members at that time, and plaintiffs in the case reached a settlement, which was approved by the federal court. As a result, the board agreed to a permanent injunction restraining and prohibiting them in their official capacities and their successors, agents, and employees from allowing, approving, or encouraging religious activities in the Carter County School System on public school property during public school hours.
This permanent injunction has been in place 30 years. Under the terms of the injunction, the order continues permanently despite changes in school system leadership or to members of the Board of Education.
It is high time we in the community, especially the Christian community, take a stand as we never have before. It is high time we protect our rights and protect the things in our community that have value. If not, we may end up like the citizens of Ukraine — fighting for our freedom.
If necessary, perhaps the City could deed the top of the mountain to a private citizen or church group…then it would no longer be government property. Then, the crosses could remain and the Freedom from Religious Foundation would no longer have a gripe.

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