City of Pensacola loses Bayview Cross case

June 19, 2017

Federal Judge Roger Vinson found that the cross at the City of Pensacola’s Bayview Park can no longer stand as a permanent fixture on city-owned property and must be removed within 30 days.

However, Mayor Ashton Hayward does have two options according to the judge.

“To be clear: None of this is to say that the cross would have to come down if the City sold or leased the area surrounding it to a private party or non-governmental entity (so long as the transfer was bona fide and not a subterfuge),” wrote Vinson. “Nor would there be a constitutional problem with worshipers using a temporary cross for their services in the park (counsel for plaintiffs conceded that point during the hearing).”

Judge Vinson granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. He ruled that the “Bayview Cross violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court and circuit precedent, and it must be removed within thirty (30) days.”

The City is ordered to pay damages to the plaintiffs in the amount of $1.00, and the parties are directed to follow the local rules of this court with regard to attorney fees to which plaintiffs may be entitled.

Read Court-order-granting-SJ-6-19-17.

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  • Reply Scott Miller June 24, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Literally every church on Pensacola Beach is on land that is leased from Escambia county. Leasing the property is a perfectly acceptable solution that has volumes of case law to back it up. That is why the judge specifically mentioned that as an option in his ruling.

  • Reply EPenn June 20, 2017 at 7:30 am

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” So, how does this decision not respect non-religion over religion, because this clause is also intended to do that too… It does intend for the government not to show favor of one over another, in other words if a jewish or muslim symbol was to be placed at the park, the local government then would have to agree since their is a christian symbol. If they disagreed to that request then they would be in violation and either take down the cross or agree to the others… It was never intended to void government from religion just to insure all have equal representation if they wished. Should we remove all the religious symbols from every grave at federal cemeteries? How dare they put crosses, stars of david, etc. on the markers, how dare they… It’s a ridiculous argument and just a power play to force rule over others, which the intent of the constitution was to prevent.

  • Reply Curt June 20, 2017 at 6:26 am

    I’m starting here, could I buy the land the cross is on then it wouldn’t be public! Simple solution. Rules can be changed obviously !!

  • Reply CJ Lewis June 19, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    Judge Vinson’s ruling was fascinating and I like how he framed his ruling as a story about American history while translating often too dry legalese into English to include, “But I will begin at the beginning.” I hope the panhandling ordinance lawsuit makes it to a decision if only to read what he writes about that issue. Interestingly, Judge Vinson cited in his ruling a statement made to the press (an “oral” Tweet) made by Mayor Hayward – ” I hope there is always a place for religion in the public square.” Its hard to see how the city could lease a block of space at Bayview Park. However, as I have pointed out before here, one option that should be explored is moving the cross to the Veteran’s Memorial Park. The land is leased to the Veterans Memorial Park Foundation of Pensacola that is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the park. Another option would be for someone to buy the land across the street from Apple Market, install the cross on the eastern end and name it something like “Sunrise Park.” It could be a venue for religious services, concerts, etc. Another option would be to move it to Bayview Memorial Park cemetery on Scenic Highway. With a little creativity, a solution can be found.

  • Reply jimmy tuck June 19, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    About time… Gotta love when the laws are actually uphelp

  • Reply Bill McBride June 19, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    If we abandon the Constitution we are doomed.

  • Reply Richard L Walker June 19, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Probably that silly ol’ document called the Constitution. The local leaders apparently have never read it.

  • Reply Rich June 19, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    It’s a sad state when 4 individuals can over rule the wishes of several hundred thousand other citizens, especially since 2 have already moved to Canada. Why is it people can’t just let others have what they want without making a pitching a fit.

    • Reply jimmy tuck June 19, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      It doesn’t matter how many… It is called the constitution and against the law

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