Holy war over cross at Reading school

READING, Pa. - December 15, 2009

When the Reading School District bought the old St. Joseph's Medical complex on Linden Street a few years ago, the plan to convert it into an intermediate high school for freshman and sophomores included the removal of the century-old cross on top of, what was, the hospital's chapel.

Recently though, several members of the school board made a motion to keep the cross where it is, saying it's an important piece of Reading's history. It was a decision that quickly spiraled into a debate about the separation of church and state.

Roofing materials to cover the spot where the cross now sits had already been purchased and the construction team was set to knock it down last week. Now, though, on-site crews are working around that part of the building until a decision is made either way.

Those discussion will also include the likelihood of a lawsuit. Mary Catherine Roper of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says the ACLU is aware of this case. She sent a statement to Action News saying: "The school board had it right with the initial plan to remove the cross as part of the overall renovation... There is no possible legal justification for allowing it to remain there."

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