Must Pensacola cross come down? Appeal arguments to be heard this week

By Lawrence Specker

It has been nearly a year since a judge ruled that a Christian cross long displayed in a Pensacola public park must come down. This week a higher court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the city’s appeal.

The case goes back to 2016 and has provoked official interest in Alabama, which is one of more than a dozen states to express support for Pensacola’s right to keep the 34-foot cross in Bayview Park. Its judicial handling also prompted criticism from Roy Moore during his run to become governor of Alabama.

The cross was erected in 1969 by the Pensacola Jaycees, replacing an earlier wooden version built by the National Youth Administration. In 2016 a quartet of plaintiffs — Amanda and Andreiy Kondrat’Yev, Andre Ryland and David Suhor — sued for its removal, charging that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The city argued that the cross did not represent a violation and should be left alone.

In June 2017, Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled in favor of plaintiffs. Vinson made it abundantly clear that the ruling was distasteful to him but that precedent in such cases was clearly established. “It is still the law of the land and I am not free to ignore it … the law is the law,” he wrote. 

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