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Controversial crosses on city water tower removed

By Stephanie Hale-Lopez
Published On: May 21 2013 07:55:22 PM CDT

Joe Cohea lives next to the water tower. He took his concerns to City Hall and the American Civil Liberties Union and the crosses came down.

ROBERTS, Idaho -

The water tower in the town of Roberts has stirred up some controversy in recent weeks, because it was adorned with multiple crosses.

Now, the crosses have been removed and replaced with American flags.

Joe Cohea lives right next door to the water tower. He sees it every day and says because it's city-owned property, it should not have any religious symbols on it.

For weeks, Cohea says the water tower right next door to his home was adorned with three crosses -- looking over the town of nearly 700.

"My opinion is no kind of religious symbol belongs on city property, period," said Cohea.

So, Joe took his concerns to City Hall and the American Civil Liberties Union and the crosses came down.

"Roberts has always welcomed religious and cultural expression if requested, but at this point, we haven't changed any policies," said Robert "BJ" Berlin, Mayor of Roberts.

One of Joe's concerns was that the crosses gave the wrong message about Roberts. It's not just full of Christians, and the city agrees.

"We have many different cultures and faiths, especially for a town our size," said Berlin. "Joe mentioned Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans, Jews... and he's right."

Mayor Berlin says anyone can put religious or cultural symbols up on the water tower, as long as it's not derogatory; but Joe and the ACLU aren't having it.

"'We strongly encourage you to contact us immediately if the city does anything else like this in the future.' So in other words, if they put them back up again I will contact them again," said Cohea.

Cohea says it's not just about the crosses that were on the water tower. It's also about a nativity scene that's put on display at the city park around Christmas.

Cohea says if he sees that again this December, he'll send another complaint to the ACLU.

Local News 8 & KIDK Eyewitness News tried contacting the ACLU for comment, but our calls were not returned.

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