Extinguished Bentonia Crosses - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Extinguished Bentonia Crosses

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Two lighted crosses on a city-owned water tower in Bentonia have been turned off and one disgruntled resident has raised the ire of the entire town.

For two years, two crosses have illuminated the town of Bentonia. But a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi has darkened the crosses.

The ACLU maintains the crosses are unlawful because they are a violation of the separation of church and state guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

"The state can't favor one religion over another religion and so when, for example, a city puts big crosses that are lit up on a water tower, that appears to be favoring Christianity, which is the only religion that uses crosses," said Bear Atwood, Legal Director of the ACLU of Mississippi.

Some Bentonia residents say the individual who complained to the ACLU has a personal vendetta against the city.

Bentonia's Police Chief says the town has been in an up-roar since the crosses were turned off Tuesday. "They feel like they've been violated, their rights have been violated also as being Christians. The letter stated that the person that made the complaint felt like he may be discriminated against for his beliefs. Well now they feel like they are being discriminated against because of their beliefs," said Police Chief Edward Ferrell. 

One Bentonian who lives across the street from the water tower says the lighted crosses are comforting to her. "You can see it when it's lit up from the Big Black River. When I get to that point, I know that I'm home. I know that if I've had a bad day at work, I feel peace and serenity when I look up there and they are shining down. I feel peace about it and I think that it's something worth fighting for," said Bentonia resident Michelle Nash. 

Bentonia's city attorney and other city leaders are working with the ACLU to try and come up with a constitutional way to keep the crosses lit.

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