Reporting Bill Shields
MIDDLEBORO (CBS) – A statue that has stood in the same spot for 53 years is now at the center of a Constitutional debate.
In 1959, Middleboro Kiwanis Club erected a 12-foot brick cross bearing the word “worship” on a traffic island on Route 28.
Recently, the statue caught the eye of a Boston attorney who has since filed multiple complaints with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The state declined to release the name of that attorney.
The cross sits mostly on town land. The state owns a small fraction of the traffic island where it is located, and thus, the ACLU says, the cross violates church and state separation laws.
A number of locals who spoke to WBZ-TV defended the statue, including Bob Kinney of the Middleboro Kiwanis Club. They argue that the statue is a local landmark.
“For someone to go by it one time and complain, I think that’s sad,” he said.
But the state and the ACLU want to see the structure come down.
Middleboro resident Jeff Stevens agrees, noting times have changed since 1959.
“In the 1950s, this was a community that was pretty consistently a Christian community,” he told WBZ-TV’s Bill Shields. “But this community, like all is far more diversity than it used to be.”
Two legal options, according to the ACLU, would be to display the cross on private property or have town officials open the traffic island to all forms of expression, a move that could not be regulated.
Town selectmen say moving the statue is not a real option because they feel the statue is fragile and could fall apart.
Al Rullo, Chairman of the Board of Selectman says the town would consider fighting any legal action in court.
“It’s not giving preference to one religion or another. And I believe personally that’s what separation of state is all about,” he said.
Kiwanis Club does not have any affiliation with any religious organization.
The cross though, was dedicated to a local minister who was the club chaplain at the time.