Knightstown filled with crosses following Christmas tree lawsuit

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KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. – Crosses are going up all over Knightstown.

A group of residents in the town of 2,100 people are standing up for the town’s Christmas display, despite a recent lawsuit.

The ACLU sued the town on behalf of resident Joseph Tompkins, claiming the cross on top of the town’s Christmas tree is a violation of Tompkins’ First Amendment rights guaranteeing separation of church and state.

The suit requests the cross be removed and the town pay Tompkins damages for being “forced to come into direct and unwelcome contact with the cross display” every day.

“Just because one person’s offended, doesn’t mean they have to take away one particular thing,” said Knightstown resident Cynthia Sturgill.

If Tompkins is successful, his lawsuit will bring down the cross.

To declare their support for the tree topper, hundreds of people in Knightstown have put crosses up in their yards, stores, windows and even cars.

“To me it’s not a religious display,” said Sturgill. “It’s not all about just Christianity. It’s about memorial, loss of family, loved ones, the veterans. The Jefferson Memorial has tons of crosses, millions of crosses for veterans.”

Tompkins disagrees, but now hundreds in the town are making it clear that they disagree with him.

“I just thought we should rebel some way or let him know how we feel,” said Knightstown resident Patricia Hutson.

Hutson came up with the idea to make more than 200 wooden crosses and give them out for free.

By the time a vigil in support of the cross started Sunday night, all but a few were gone.

“I hope they make people realize that we should speak up for what we believe in and stand up for it and not be pushed around,” said Hutson.

Everyone agrees that the town will have to respect a court’s decision if the lawsuit makes it that far. But in the meantime, they hope they’re able to show Tompkins why he should drop the suit instead.

“As long as I’m around and family, friends, town, we’ll fight it every bit of the way,” said Sturgill. “We don’t want the cross to come down.”

Tompkins did not respond to a request for comment about the community’s reaction to his lawsuit.

Town officials also say they’re not ready to comment about how they plan to respond to the suit.

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