West Tennessee towns face lawsuits over cross

(WMC-TV) – Two West Tennessee towns are embroiled in a controversy over displaying the cross.

An organization in Wisconsin called the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded a cross be removed from the top of the Whiteville, Tennessee water tower or the town of 3,000 would face a lawsuit citing First Amendment violations.

"I don't understand why they want the cross to come down," said Whiteville resident Kevin Woods.  "It's a symbol of all our religions.  Should leave it alone, let it stay where it's at."

Whiteville Mayor James Bellar made the decision to remove one of the arms of the cross.  Bellar said a women's Sunday school group raised the money to put the cross on the water tower seven years ago.

"The only one who complained is Ms. Gaylor at the Freedom from Religion calling me a nut case," said Bellar.

The organization said someone in the Whiteville area complained about the cross, but they would not say who.  Some said they are suspicious it was someone who lives outside of Whiteville.

People in Whiteville have been fighting back by placing white crosses in front of their houses.

Roger Alston's Whiteville parts business has a cross in front of it the same size as the one on the water tower.  He has spearheaded the cross movement.

"It's been a community effort to come together and make a stand," said Alston.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation also sent the mayor of nearby Somerville, Tennessee a letter saying someone has complained about a cross.

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