Lake Elsinore Again Caught Up in Legal Battle Over Religious Symbols in Town

Roadside crosses placed in memory of a local teen who was killed as he rode his skateboard are now the target of controversy.

AnnMarie Devaney reluctantly removed crosses placed in her son's memory in Lake Elsinore on March 6, 2014.  Screenshot courtesy: NBC4 Los Angeles
AnnMarie Devaney reluctantly removed crosses placed in her son's memory in Lake Elsinore on March 6, 2014. Screenshot courtesy: NBC4 Los Angeles

Lake Elsinore is again getting national attention for a fight brewing over the public display of religious symbols.

The Southern California city of 55,000 residents was first caught up in a battle over a veterans memorial that was supposed to be installed in front of the local baseball stadium.

Now, the same group who sued to ban that monument has also successfully forced a woman to remove roadside crosses that were placed in town in memory of her teen son, at the location of his death.

"She can grieve the way she wants, but she doesn't own the streets to the city," the woman who spearheaded the effort to get the signs removed told NBC4 Los Angeles.

She did not want to identify herself to the news agency because she says she fears for her safety.

"We're not doing this because we have anything against their religion, we just want everyone's beliefs to be respected," she told the news agency.  "I'm afraid that when people's emotions take the best of them, they don't always rationally behave, and I'm a target."

The crosses were removed on Thursday, but since then, several more have popped up in their place, put there by other people.

The original crosses had been at the location on Lake Street since the May 2012 death of Anthonty Devaney, who was killed when he was struck by a vehicle as he rode his skateboard.  He was 19.

The American Humanist Association (AHA) says they contacted the city of Lake Elsinore on March 4 when they learned that the cross still stood.

"On December 16, 2013, the city removed the cross after repeated requests, but reinstated it two days later with a deadline of removal on January 6, 2014," the AHA said.  "As of today, the cross has not yet been removed."

The group, which advocates for the rights of nonbelievers, sent a letter to the city demanding the cross removal from public land on the grounds of separation of church and state.  You can read that full letter here.

"It's still not fair," AnnMarie Devaney told NBC4.  "There's no reason why the cross had to come down.  The cross is up here for Anthony..."

As for the other case in town with which AHA was involved, a federal judge recently weighed in.

"On February 27, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson ruled that a planned memorial, to be erected at Lake Elsinore’s minor league baseball team stadium, depicting a soldier kneeling in prayer before a cross, was unconstitutional," the organization said.

AHA describes itself as "...a national nonprofit organization with over 24,800 members, over 170 local chapters and affiliates, and over 190,000 online supporters across the country."

What do YOU think?  Should the crosses be allowed to remain at the site?  Or does the AHA argument stand?  Tell us in the comments.

LBV Collins April 12, 2014 at 12:14 PM
@AlwaysPO'd: I think that's a fair question. Let's consider the Veteran's National cemeteries. The headstones are diverse with dozens of different government sanctioned and approved emblems that "represents the sincerely held belief of the decedent." There are Christian emblems, Jewish emblems, even Wiccan and Atheist emblems. So this is an excellent example of what I'm referring to: Come one, come all; not just Christians, but people of all faiths... and non-faiths. Also, I suspect not too many people are going to argue that showing a religious symbol on a gravestone at a National Cemetery is the same as erecting a statue of Satan or the Ten Commandments on the State Capitol's grounds. (But I like your question! It's a good one!) BTW: Here's the link to the "Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers": http://www.cem.va.gov/hmm/emblems.asp
AlwaysPO'd April 12, 2014 at 12:28 PM
LBV, folks such as these loons, take things too far. They always have, and will, until the finger of common sense pokes them in the eye. If religion is indeed a belief, then isn't the disbelief of it also a belief? Who's beliefs are then justified to that which is allowed? You see the insanity they promote?
Chad Sanders April 12, 2014 at 02:46 PM
Mister Anthony! I love you man! Bet you never saw all this ruckess in mow happening because of the cross your family put up. I felt that cross was you smiling at me everytime i pass by. Now sense it's removed i refuse to drive that way out of town. I go around! 2 years is coming up, /: been 21. Sadly none of theses people are real people. They are a bunch of idiots.
American Woman May 06, 2014 at 10:37 AM
These crosses are not hurting anyone. Let it go people!
American Woman May 06, 2014 at 10:38 AM
I am more offended by the loons who still have Obama stickers on their cars.


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