Man fights for yard cross

July 25, 2011 at 4:06 PM

LIVINGSTON, N.J., July 25 (UPI) -- A New Jersey man who put a cross in his yard to mark Lent said he will fight back against township officials who forced him to take it down.

Patrick Racaniello of Livingston said he initially put a small cross on a tree in his yard to mark the Christian season from Ash Wednesday to Easter and replaced it with a larger cross when township officials informed him of an ordinance banning postings on structures -- trees included -- "calculated to attract the attention of the public," The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger reported Monday.

Racaniello said he replaced the item with a larger, free-standing cross in his yard, but officials threatened him with fines and he took it down.

Racaniello contacted the Christian lawyer group Alliance Defense Fund, which said it will take the case to court if the township does not allow Racaniello to display his cross.

"We believe this is private property, and therefore he has a right to engage in this expression," alliance lawyer Jonathan Scruggs said. "We believe that either cross is protected by the First Amendment."

Sharon Weiner, an attorney for the township, said the township is "very sensitive" to Racaniello's First Amendment rights.

"They're making it out that, because it's a cross, we're not allowing it. That's not so. It's a content-neutral regulation," Weiner said.

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