19 Foot Cross in Chicago’s Daley Plaza

April 7, 2007

CHICAGO, Apr. 5 /Christian Newswire/ — This past winter, Chicago became stigmatized nationally as anti-Christian because it stopped the showing of a trailer for the movie The Nativity Story at a Christmas festival on Daley Plaza. Now the public and people of faith can commemorate Jesus’ passion and death on the cross and celebrate his life and his resurrection. The city stated it would be “insensitive to the many people of different faiths” — in disregard for citizens’ First Amendment rights which guarantee private religious expression in a public forum like the Daley Plaza. Representatives of several Christian denominations will hold a press conference and display a 19-foot cross in Daley Plaza on Friday, April 6 at 10:00 am in preparation for a sunrise Resurrection service on Sunday, April 8 at 6:15 am. The erection of the cross and the service will take place on Daley Plaza located at 50 West Washington Street in Chicago.

“For years I’ve had the privilege of being involved in the presentation of the nativity scene that has been displayed at Daley Plaza. Now this Easter service will celebrate a more significant event, the resurrection of Jesus as the Savior of the world,” says Jim Finnegan, one of the applicants for the permit for the cross and service.

“The crucifixion of Jesus was a quintessentially public event. We thank God our Constitution now protects the right of believers to commemorate that crucifixion and the Resurrection with an empty cross in our public square,” says John Mauck with Mauck & Baker, whose firm worked with the Thomas More Society to obtain the permit to erect the cross and have the service.

“Ironically, in December Chicago tried to erode religious rights when it banned The Nativity Story preview from a Daley Plaza Christmas festival,” continues Mauck. “However, because of the threat of litigation in that case, Chicago has changed its attitude. They finally allowed us to show the Nativity Story film clips last Christmas and actually facilitated the erection of the cross and sunrise service to be held this Resurrection Sunday.”

The right to religious expression in Daley Plaza was settled in 1989 when Jennifer Neubauer, then a private lawyer and now chairman of Thomas More Society, filed a federal lawsuit and won a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction from Chief Judge James B. Parsons of the U.S. District Court in Chicago. The court granted permission to erect religious displays on public property without discrimination against expression on account of religious content.

“The reason all faiths can be celebrated in Daley Plaza is because of that court case back in the 1980’s. Freedom of religious expression in the public square is protected as one of our most fundamental rights under the First Amendment,” says Tom Brejcha, Chief Counsel, Thomas More Society of Chicago, whose non-profit public interest law firm underwrote the event, worked to obtain the permit to erect the cross and have the service, and also engaged Karl Fritz, Christian builder, designer, and member of Redeemer of Calvary Church, to build the cross with donated labor.

Sponsors of the display include Jim Finnegan and Terry Hodges (also sponsors of the Nativity display at Daley Plaza), Civil Liberties for Urban Believers (C.L.U.B.), and the Redeemer of the Calvary United Methodist Church. Among those participating in the service are Fr. Gerald O’Reilly from St. Daniel the Prophet Catholic Church and Queen Esther of Orchestra Ebenezer Ministry (who also performs prison ministry).

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