Kentucky city council shuns cross monument

ORLANDO, FL -- Liberty Counsel is poised to file a lawsuit after the City of Somerset, Kentucky, has arbitrarily mis-categorized a cross monument as a "sign" and denied Port CharlotteCross Ministries, Inc.'s request for a building permit to erect the monument on private property next to U.S. Highway 27. 

 Somerset's denial of a building permit for the 60-foot Monument Cross is based on the City classifying the Christian faith as a "commodity;" or an "entertainment sold or offered," and the cross being a "billboard." It is illegal for the City to twist the sign ordinance to ban the Cross, Liberty Counsel Attorney Richard Mast said in an initial letter to the city.

 On June 18, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an unconstitutional sign ordinance applied to religious expression, in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona. "Liberty Counsel submitted an amicus brief in that case, and is quite capable of litigating the issues involved in this instance, if necessary," Liberty Counsel told Mayor Eddie Girdler in a June 19, 2015 final letter to the City.

 The Monument Cross is not a "sign," but is simply a symbol of Christianity, in addition to being an example of public art. There are over 400 registered examples of publicly-visible art in Kentucky, every one of which would be considered "signs" under the City's absurd classification. Other Kentucky municipalities have approved, without issue, building permits for even larger crosses, such as Wickliffe's Memorial Cross, which is 90 feet tall, some 30 feet taller than the proposed Somerset cross.

 "There is no good reason to capriciously deny a building permit for this cross, when churches have been permitted to build steeples and freestanding towers with crosses and erect flagpoles without issue. The City's actions here are insulting and in violation of Kentucky's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and most significantly, the First Amendment," Mast concluded.