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Residents Resist Call to Remove Cross and Star in Honesdale

HONESDALE, Pa. — A cross and star in a Wayne County community are the centers of controversy, and now an effort is underway to keep them in the face of a ...

HONESDALE, Pa. -- A cross and star in a Wayne County community are the centers of controversy, and now an effort is underway to keep them in the face of a possible legal battle.

Newswatch 16 first told you Monday about the letter objecting to the cross and star in a public park in Honesdale.

Almost immediately, folks in the area started a campaign to keep both symbols where they are.

The star has been up for about 50 years on Irving Cliff in Gibbons Park, which was given to the borough of Honesdale solely as a public park.

Now, both the star and cross that shine during Christmas and Easter could be in jeopardy after an organization asked the borough to take them down, saying they violate the First Amendment.

Shortly after our initial story aired, it was a packed house at the Honesdale borough council meeting Monday night.

Community members were worried and upset that longstanding symbols of the Easter and Christmas season would have to go.

"I don't think most of the people involved are going to see any solution other than it staying there," said resident Jeff Hiller.

Hiller was one of the many who spoke out against the possibility of removing both symbols.

But the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter back in June saying both symbols are in violation of the Constitution.

"It is heritage. It is tradition. It does have resemblance of religion, but that's OK," said resident Suzie Frisch.

Honesdale council only just learned of the letter after the mayor failed to share it, and attorneys are now looking at the borough's options, but a grassroots group is now leading the effort to keep both.

"I feel the blunder started in the mayor's office, truth be told. It's a shame that now here we are. Time is of the essence. Santa is coming to town," Frisch said.

"I see where the public would be there to back them up with that lawsuit. I think monetarily to fight this because somebody's got to stop," Hiller said.

A person in our story Monday claimed Christians outnumber other religions in the Honesdale area. However, Congregation Beth Israel has been around since the mid-1800s -- Jewish folks who practice a different faith than Christianity.

"It's kind of to me a non-issue," said Martha Sader, Congregation Beth Israel.

"The star and cross should stay?"

"Well, yes," Sader replied.

The holiday season is a little more than a month away, and folks in Honesdale are adamant the star will be shining bright in spite of the constitutional challenge.

"Nobody can imagine it not being lit up," Frisch added.

We spoke with someone from the Freedom From Religion Foundation which sent that letter. The organization is waiting for a response from the borough and has not ruled out taking legal action.

A similar instance recently led to Carbondale moving a nativity scene from City Hall to the YMCA.