I have previously written about the water tower cross in Whiteville, Tennessee three times: here, here, and here. The story is pretty much over now. On August 8, 2012, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the town of Whiteville settled the lawsuit.
The actual terms of the settlement are here. The FFRF’s press release regarding the settlement can be read here. And the mayor of Whiteville, in what has emerged as his own characteristic style, today spontaneously e-mailed me his own press release, which can be viewed here. The terms of the settlement are…
The device on the water tower may remain — in its current form, and the other arm that would return its shape to that of a Latin cross may not go back up. Crosses on the grounds of the city hall must be part of a larger religious display. The mayor himself will not display crosses on the public property in front of his private business (I presume he may display whatever he likes on the inside). And the town will pay about two-thirds of FFRF’s attorney’s fees and court costs.
Mayor Bellar’s press release seems very bitter in its proclamation of victory, and if I’d been his lawyer, I’d have explained the benefits of complying with Rule 1. But the Mayor seems to have an emotional need to portray himself as the little guy who stood up to a big, bad, evil bully and won. So I suspect that a lawyer who dispensed the advice I describe would have been ignored at best, and fired at worst. The FFRF’s statement is more bland and professional in tone, which is closer to what I would have advised.
Who won? Did he win? “Winning,” to me, is when you get out of the lawsuit what you had sought when you first walked into court. The links above set forth the stipulated order of the court, and each party speaking for themselves in their own voices about the resolution. The Reader may decide for herself which side of the dispute got what they wanted out of the case.
My own opinion on the merits of the dispute should be abundantly clear from my prior reports, also linked above. I am pleased that the lawsuit is settled and pleased that the town will be more mindful of the Constitution in the future. I hope that the citizens of Whiteville are able to put any bitterness lingering after this divisive issue behind them and come together as a friendly and unified community — a wish and advice I render to both the faithful and the skeptical with equal sobriety.