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Posted: December 12, 2016

Town sued for placing cross on top of Christmas tree

By Brianna Chambers

Cox Media Group National Content Desk


Matt Naham contributed to this report.

An Indiana town was sued for a Christmas tree display. 

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According to WXIN, Joseph Tompkins, a resident of Knightstown, Indiana, enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the town after it topped a public Christmas tree display with a cross instead of a star. The lawsuit claimed the topper was a violation of the First Amendment because it blurred the lines between separation of church and state.

"The cross is the best known symbol of Christianity and Knightstown's prominent display of this symbol represents an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," the complaint said.

The lawsuit demanded that the town compensate Tompkins for being "forced to come into direct and unwelcome contact with the cross display" every day. Tompkins said he objected "to any of his tax dollars going to pay for the erection or maintenance of the display or the lighting of it," according to court documents.

But residents of the town opposed Tompkins' argument.

"Just because one person's offended, doesn't mean they have to take away one particular thing," resident Cynthia Sturgill told WXIN.

Other residents disagreed with Tompkins' claim and said that the display wasn't religious. 

"To me, it's not a religious display," Sturgill told WXIN. "It's not all about just Christianity. It's about memorial, loss of family, loved ones, the veterans."

To combat the lawsuit, Knightstown resident Patricia Hutson crafted more than 200 wooden crosses to hand out for free to send a message. People also put crosses in their yards, stores, windows and cars, according to WXIN. 

"I just thought we should rebel some way or let him know how we feel," Hutson told WXIN. "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."

A group gathered Sunday night to express support for the cross-topped tree Sunday night. 

Monday morning, a Facebook page for the town announced the cross had been taken down.

"It is with regret and sadness that the Knightstown Town Council has had the cross removed from the Christmas tree on the town square and is expected to approve a resolution at the next council meeting stating they will not return the cross to the tree," the council said in a Facebook post."

This statement was just released by the Knightstown Town Council:

It is with regret and sadness that the Knightstown...

Posted by Knightstown news and events on Monday, December 12, 2016

Tompkins told WXIN he wasn't offended by the cross, but rather valued upholding the First Amendment.

The Cross will come down, but we can still light the town with crosses.  Look on the bright side, instead of just one...

Posted by Knightstown news and events on Monday, December 12, 2016

Read more at WXIN.

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