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ACLU: Sight of Cross on Public Tree Inflicts ‘Irreparable Harm’

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Joseph Tompkins is an “irreparable harm” survivor. He’s the guy who got the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to force a small Indiana town to remove a cross from atop its municipal Christmas tree on Monday.


Mr. Tompkins, who must be blessed with remarkably selective eyesight, was “forced to come into direct and unwelcome contact” with the cross on top of the tree in the public square as he drove through Knightstown, causing him “irreparable harm,” said the ACLU lawsuit filed on Dec. 8 on his behalf.

While Mr. Tompkins may have won his legal battle, he’s lost the culture war as other local residents have responded by displaying hundreds of crosses on everything from buildings to car antennas.

Now, instead of one cross on a stationary tree, an army of crosses is crisscrossing the city on public streets paid for with Mr. Tompkins’s very own tax dollars. Plus, the town Christmas tree is still there, awash with lights and ornaments. City officials can “Christianize” it with a star on top or an angel if they’re so inclined.

“I just thought we should rebel some way or let him know how we feel,” Knightstown resident Patricia Hutson told FOX59, explaining the outbreak of cross displays. Hutson herself made 200 wooden crosses and gave them out during a Sunday night vigil for the cross.

“I hope they make people realize that we should speak up for what we believe in and stand up for it and not be pushed around,” Hutson said.


In its lawsuit the ACLU had demanded immediate removal of the cross, monetary damages, legal fees and a ruling that the cross violated the First Amendment’s Establishment clause.

City officials in Knightstown, which has 2,100 residents and lies 40 miles east of Indianapolis, held out for a few days but relented on Monday, citing fear of exorbitant legal fees – the inevitable side-effect of the ACLU browbeating communities into surrendering their customs.

According to the ACLU, Mr. Tompkins said he “objects to any of his tax dollars going to pay for the erection or maintenance of the display or the lighting of it.”

Well, it looks like Mr. Tompkins and the ACLU picked on the wrong town this time. Let’s hope Knightstown’s response to the bullies gets noticed and emulated far and wide.

Robert Knight is a Senior Fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.

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