After obtaining both federal and state permits to erect a giant cross on its property, a Mississippi church is being stymied in that effort by town elders, ostensibly because it violates a local zoning ordinance. But the church’s pastor says something else is at play — town officials are afraid it may offend Muslims.
The non-profit “Crosses Across America,” which erects giant crosses along highways, approached the First Baptist Church of Brandon, to do the same on its property running alongside Interstate 20. The church got the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Mississippi Department of Transportation to erect the 110-foot cross, and then petitioned the city, according to Fox News.
The city’s planning commission voted 4-3 against recommending a zoning variance to erect the structure, and the issue will now go to the Brandon Board of Aldermen.
The location is considered ideal. “92,000 cars a day travel along the Interstate 20 corridor. Those are people who need hope, who need inspiration,” said Pastor Dr. Scott Thomas.
If constructed, Thomas indicated that the “Cross at Brandon” could be used for special events such as multi-denominational gatherings and weddings.
A local zoning ordinance restricts auxiliary structures such as the cross to a maximum height of 20 feet.
“The tallest structure in the city is two stories,” Mayor Butch Lee told Fox News. “The cross is 11 stories.”
But Thomas indicated that issues raised at the planning commission hearing indicated to him that something other than the cross’s size was at the heart of the city’s objection.
“They asked other questions that indicate to me that there’s something else that concerns them,” he said. “They asked, ‘what if the Muslims, the Buddhists want to build a sign?’”
The mayor rejected that notion, calling it. “Hogwash.” He continued, “I can assure you that our planning commission and our city board are without doubt, 100 percent born-again Christians – everyone one of them. I will stand by them whatever they decide.”
He also indicated that the board of aldermen will vote on the issue Sept. 16, but hopes that some compromise can be reached before then.
“We’ve got Christians calling Christians ungodly,” he said. “It’s digressing to a sad point rather than both sides being in prayer and seeking compromise.”
In the meantime, the church is trying to augment support for the project through a Facebook page.
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