In the state of Georgia, a Memorial Day display that featured a collection of crosses in honor of fallen soldiers has been removed after a member of the community questioned whether or not all the dead soldiers were Christians.
The Memorial Day display consisted of a collection of 79 white crosses, which were erected on public property along the state highway in Hiram, Georgia. All 79 crosses were painted by hand, and according to the town officials, it was meant to serve as a representation of the 79 Paulding County residents who have died serving in America’s wars. The troops being honored had died in several different conflicts, from the First World War to Iraq and also Afghanistan.
However, one resident complained about the possible religious overtones, and the memorial was abruptly taken down last Friday. It seems that the person called Hiram City Hall just hours after the crucifixes were posted and posed the question of whether or not a cross was the most appropriate symbol for the memorial.
The mayor of Hiram, Teresa Philyaw, expressed her great disappointment that the Memorial Day posts had to be taken down. Philyaw stated that the display, which she had helped plan and approved was never intended to be religious.
“It was never about religion — it was just to honor them. I was devastated when it had to come down. We wanted to make sure that they weren’t forgotten. We also wanted their families to know that our hearts still bleed for them. At the time, it never, ever crossed my mind about the religious factor in it. The cross is a ‘rest in peace’ symbol to me.”
Philyaw also went on to say that to her knowledge, there had been no complaints made from the families of any of the soldiers being honored.
City Manager Barry Atkinson’s office received the phone call, and Atkinson says that when the question of whether or not the Christian display was appropriate and if all the fallen soldiers had been Christian, it gave his office pause. According to WSBTV, a local ABC News affiliate Atkinson said that of course the answer to the question was no, “they obviously weren’t,” and so they decided to remove the crosses.
Of course, not all residents agree with the decision, and the news has spread to the wider population, with many expressing that the removal of the 79 crosses was political correctness gone too far. On the opposite side of the argument are those who believe it was the right thing to do, as all faiths should be represented.
Many expressed shock that the mayor had given in and removed the Memorial Day gesture and even volunteered to post them up again, this time on private property. The remark that “People who are non-Christian shouldn’t be offended by that because they gave their lives for our country, and that’s the way I look at it” was passed, but Atkinson said he did not believe the person who complained had any anger over the crosses. In fact, he said they offered to donate towards erecting a permanent memorial that takes all factors into account in honor of the fallen soldiers.
The strength of the people’s voices seems to be winning, however, as the Washington Times reported that on Tuesday night, during a city council meeting, the residents voiced their opinions and concerns and were heard. The council voted unanimously to put the crosses back up.
[Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images]