McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

August 21, 2012

Protest against the removal of crosses from city signs gains momentum

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Several McAlester organizations say they are backing a move to ask the city of McAlester to reverse a decision to remove street sign silhouettes because they depict a cross.

The  groups include churches and a veterans’ organization, and representatives say they plan to attend the Aug. 28 McAlester City Council meeting. That’s when a member of Gaines Creek Association of Freewill Baptist Churches intends to present a resolution asking the council to reverse City Manager Pete Stasiak’s decision to remove the silhouettes.

The silhouettes were placed by the city and paid for by McAlester resident Bob Wallace.
City Manager Pete Stasiak has said he had the silhouettes removed after he received a complaint and after checking with city attorney Joe Ervin. Stasiak said Ervin told him the silhouettes are be a conflict of church and state. 
Last week, James Prince, chairman of the Gaines Creek Association of Free Will Baptists, said he plans to present his group’s resolution at the next council meeting asking the council to reverse its decision to remove street sign silhouettes with soldiers kneeling before a cross.
Monday, members of Faith Fellowship Church in McAlester and Lord’s Calvary Church in Krebs began circulating a petition and have gained more than 1,000 signatures, according to Carolyn McNatt, organizer of the petition drive. 
“It was on our heart to do something,” she said.
 Stasiak he did not recall who made the initial complaint to remove the silhouettes.
At least one city councilman said he plans to present his own thoughts on the issue during the meeting.
“I have not presently formed an opinion on this issue,” Ward 6 Sam Mason said Tuesday. “At the next meeting, I will lay out the facts and act accordingly.” 
Meanwhile, Ward 2 Councilman John Titsworth said he’s made his decision.
“I am in favor of them (the silhouettes) remaining on the signs,” Titsworth said Tuesday.
McAlester Mayor Steve Harrison and Ward 1 Councilman Weldon Smith could not be reached for comment.
The petition from McNatt’s group is addressed to Harrison and the city council. 
“This community can no longer set back and allow our Lord to be taken out of our community,” the petition states. “The city has taken the cross off the city emblem because one person complained. .. now you have a whole community complaining. Christians are upset, it is time this city is no longer under condemnation of this sort. ...
“This is a Christian Nation and we believe the cross should be displayed to honor our Savior Jesus Christ.”
Kevin Dean, a member of the Lord’s Calvary Church, said he decided to write up the petition as a matter of principle. 
“We as Christians need to start standing up for the Lord,” Dean said.
The American Legion in Hartshorne is also behind the move.
Hartshorne American Legion No. 180 member and John Dear, of Kiowa, said his organization is also behind the effort. 
“The veterans of the United States went to war to give atheists the right to speak out for their beliefs and the right for Christians to put up these crosses,” Dear said. 
 Although they are not on the Aug. 28 council agenda, McNatt and Dean said they plan to attend the city session and to organize a group to pray in front of city hall before the 6 p.m. meeting.
For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smartphone.  
Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.