PENSACOLA, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--On Monday, June 19, 2017, a federal judge in Pensacola, Fla., ruled that a monument in the shape of a cross placed on publicly owned land for the last nearly 50 years had to be removed within 30 days. Following the ruling, 12 local community leaders, led by former State Senator Greg Evers, formed The Historical Preservation Society, Inc., seeking to lease the land and preserve the cross.
In 2016, four plaintiffs filed a lawsuit claiming the cross was offensive to non-Christians. On June 14, 2017, Honorable Judge Roger Vinson heard oral arguments from both sides, and on June 19, 2017, Judge Vinson ruled that the cross violated the Establishment Clause in the Constitution’s First Amendment.
Earlier this week, a local rally was held where nearly 500 Northwest Florida community members gathered in support of the effort to preserve the historic cross. Today, former Senator Evers, who represented the area for more than a decade in the Florida House of Representatives and later in the Florida Senate, released the following statement on behalf of The Historical Preservation Society.
“We appreciate the difficult position the judge was put in, as well as the effort that he made to accommodate all of the concerned parties. While his ruling was bound by case law, he did offer a solution in his ruling, which we are pursuing as an outside party to the case.
“This historic cross has been a part of our community fabric for nearly 50 years, replacing a cross that has been around since the early 1940s. We feel the views of a few should not outweigh the voices of many, and we are hopeful that this historic symbol can continue to stand the test of time for many generations to come.”
The current cross was erected in 1969. However, there has been a cross in this location since 1941, where a native pine cross was constructed and erected by the National Youth Administration (NYA) – a New Deal Era agency of the Federal government that provided jobs to young people – and was paid for by money raised by the Pensacola Chapter of the Jaycees.
This historic symbol of the Northwest Florida community has been representative of many historic events stemming back to World War II, which is why The Historical Preservation Society made an unsolicited offer to lease the land. The City of Pensacola is currently reviewing The Historical Preservation Society’s offer, but has not made a decision as of yet.