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Roberts man cries foul over religious symbols on city property

By Stephanie Hale-Lopez
Published On: Apr 26 2013 06:55:22 PM CDT

One man isn't too happy about a water tower adorned with multiple crosses across the street from his home. He said the tower in Roberts is city property and should not have any religious symbols or displays on it.

ROBERTS, Idaho -

A Jefferson County man isn't too happy about a water tower adorned with multiple crosses across the street from his home.

He said the tower, in Roberts, is city property and should not have any religious symbols or displays on it.

"They symbolize a particular religion," said homeowner Joe Cohea. "In violation of the First Amendment, which is separation of church and state."

At the top of one of the tallest towers in Roberts, three crosses look over the town of nearly 700.

Cohea has lived in Roberts for years and said he's had enough.

He said the crosses give the wrong message about his town. It's not just full of Christians.

"It might not only be offensive, but intimidating to some people," said Cohea. "There are Native American religions and Buddhists and Hindu that I know of here, and there's also an individual that is Jewish."

So Cohea took his concerns to City Hall.

"We understand not everyone's a Christian, not everyone's a God-fearing person and that's fine," said Robert "BJ" Berlin, mayor of Roberts.

Berlin said there's nothing wrong with those crosses,  and no one besides Cohea has complained.

"Government will not create any state religion and will not deter or get in the way of anybody's religion," said Berlin. "The City of Roberts abides by the Constitution."

But Cohea disagrees -- especially when the crosses are lit up at night.

"Red, white and blue must mean that Christianity is equated with patriotism, I suppose," said Cohea.

Cohea said he's scheduled to talk to the City Council next month.

He also said it's not just about the three crosses on the water tower -- it's also about a Nativity scene that's put on display at the city park around Christmas.

He said he has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union for support.  

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