A small Texas city that was threatened with a lawsuit because of its refusal to remove a 10-foot- tall cross from a public park has found an ingenious way to keep it there by selling the small parcel of land on which the cross stands to a church for $100, Fox News reports
The potential constitutional crisis arose when an atheist group sued the city of Port Neches last November to remove the cross, which has been in the park for 45 years.
The group, the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, said the presence of the religious symbol on public land was a clear violation of the First Amendment. It said it took up the issue after receiving a complaint from a resident in the 13,000-strong city.
The lawsuit elicited a strong backlash from the community, which refused to remove the cross and said they would not allow the rights of the vast majority of the residents who identified with it to be violated.
Port Neches City Attorney Lance Bradley told 12News Now
that the creative solution occurred when "We found a section in the local government code that allows the sale of property to a religious organization, as long as that organization owns land within the municipality and there's an agreement to revitalize that land."
The Freedom from Religion Foundation's Rebecca Markert told 12News Now that the group views the sale of the land as a victory since the city divested itself from a religious symbol.
However, she said the organization would now check into the legality of the sale without a proper bidding process and make sure that signs are posted informing the public that the plot of land is privately owned.
the small Texas town was in the news just a few weeks ago when the superintendent of the city's school district said it would disregard the Obama administration's directive requiring schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to their chosen gender identity.
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