Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 18, 2012

Cowboy silhouettes and cross sent packing

McALESTER, Okla. -- Silhouettes depicting scenes of cowboys and soldiers kneeling before a cross have been removed from street signs by city officials, who cited religious objections.

Meanwhile, “In God We Trust” was recently placed in the lobby at McAlester City Hall.

The roadway signage was removed following a complaint, said City Manager Pete Stasiak, who had conferred with the city’s attorney before acting. “I had them removed because of a conflict with church and state.”

Joe Ervin, attorney for the City of McAlester, said there is a difference between having a motto “In God We Trust” posted in City Hall and having a religious symbol on a street sign. “The First Amendment prohibits government from any establishment of religion; the cross is a Christian symbol,” Ervin said. “It’s the same as if it had been a crescent moon or the Star of David or any symbol representing a specific faith.”

Bob Wallace, a McAlester business owner who paid for the silhouettes, said he was shocked over the removal. “It made me feel bad,” he said.

Wallace said he is going to give the silhouettes to area churches to use on their property, but he isn’t happy with the city’s decision.

“I was upset and shocked," he said. "We are in the Bible belt, this is a Christian nation. We’ve drifted so far away from Christian values.”

Stasiak said he didn’t intend to cause a problem when he had the sillhouettes taken down. “Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have removed them,” Stasiak said.

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Details for this story were provided by the McAlester (Okla.) News-Capital.

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