NJ Man Double-Crossed by Town for Displaying Two Crosses in Front Yard
The Alliance Defense Fund sent a letter to the township of Livingston Friday that urges officials to stop using a town ordinance to prohibit a resident from displaying crosses in various areas of his own front yard. Police ordered the homeowner to take down a cross he had affixed to a tree in celebration of Lent after a neighbor opposed to his religious display complained.
“It’s ridiculous to stop citizens from displaying a cross on their own property,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “The Constitution guarantees the right of Americans to express their religious beliefs in this fashion, and no local ordinance can trump that. In this case, however, the ordinance itself doesn’t actually even prohibit these crosses. The law is being used in a vague fashion to stop him from doing what he wishes on his own private property.”
In April, Patrick Racaniello displayed a 31-by-19-inch wooden cross on a tree in his front yard to celebrate the season of Lent. When an irate neighbor screamed objections about the cross at him and his family, Racaniello called the police, who later ordered him to remove the cross because it was located on a tree within eight feet from the curb. Fearing a citation, Racaniello complied.
Still desiring to display his cross, Racaniello built a 6-by-4-foot wooden cross and placed it in his yard nine feet from the curb. Township officials told him that he was again in violation of Livingston Ordinance 178-11 and that the township requires a 10-foot right-of-way into his yard. The zoning inspector then sent Racaniello a letter that demanded he “move the cross to another location on your property, outside of the Township right-of-way and not on any tree….”….
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