WASHINGTON (Talon News) — A Christian group upset that crosses have been banned by the U.S. Secret Service at President George W. Bush’s Inaugural Parade next week will take their grievance to federal court to seek injunctive relief if the prohibition is not lifted.
As reported last Thursday by Talon News, the Secret Service sent a letter to the National Park Service listing items not allowed during the Inaugural Parade, including crosses.
Christian Defense Coalition Director Rev. Patrick Mahoney said last week that the Secret Service has “trampled the First Amendment and crushed religious freedom in the public square” by only forbidding the Christian symbol of the cross from the Inauguration Parade.
“Simply put, it is religious bigotry and censorship,” Mahoney added.
Declaring that he will be using crosses as part of his group’s activities during the Inaugural Parade, Mahoney said he is aware that he will be “risking arrest and jail.”
“The First Amendment should be celebrated at this Inauguration, not crushed,” exclaimed Mahoney.
But before he resorts to taking measures that may break the law, Mahoney had his attorney write a letter to John Kelleher, chief counsel for the Secret Service, dated January 6, 2005, requesting the Secret Service lift their ban on crosses at this event.
“No justification exists for categorical exclusions of crosses from the Inaugural Parade route,” Mahoney’s attorney writes in the letter.
He asks the Secret Service to “immediately redraft the definition of structures to eliminate a categorical ban on crosses.”
“If the Secret Service does not publicly lift this prohibition, our letter makes it clear we are prepared to go into federal court to resolve this matter,” Mahoney said in a statement. “This marks the first time a federal law enforcement agency has banned crosses from a public event and expressed the view that crosses could somehow be used as a weapon.”
Admitting that the Secret Service probably meant that certain kinds of crosses would not be allowed, Mahoney’s attorney wrote in the letter that the generic use of “crosses” leaves little room for any crosses to be used regardless of their perceived threat to parade attendees.
“From this, a reasonable mind could conclude that jewelry in the shape of a cross is banned, including pendant crosses, crosses for charm bracelets, cross earrings,” Mahoney’s attorney concluded in the letter. “And, likewise, a reasonable mind could justifiably conclude that crosses that fall within the class of religious objects are prohibited: for Catholic Christians, for example, such a ban on crosses means leaving one’s rosary at home; for members of various religious orders, it means leaving various items off of one’s habit or attire. Reasonably, given that structures is defined as crosses, it appears that the Secret Service goes so far as to prohibit crosses depicted on shirts, pull-overs, jackets, and crosses depicted on signs, posters and banners.”
Mahoney’s attorney argues in the letter that this ban “overreaches grotesquely the bounds of permissible federal government regulation.”
Outlining in the letter that legal precedents show the Secret Service cannot ban crosses at the Inaugural Parade, Mahoney’s attorney said this was “simply a poor effort at communication” by the Secret Service and could be rectified if they “would immediately recraft the definition of structures to eliminate a categorical ban on crosses.”
“[The Secret Service] could craft a prohibition of dangerous objections that secures the Service’s needs and interests without trammeling the religious beliefs and sensibilities of millions of Americans,” the letter concludes.