Friday 29 March 2024

Nonprofit law firm sponsors 19-foot cross for Easter celebration in downtown Chicago

Thomas More sponsors 19-foot cross for Easter service in Chicago | U.S. News

A nonprofit law firm that has fought many high-profile religious liberty cases is co-sponsoring this year's 17th annual "Jesus in Daley Plaza" celebration that marks Easter with a 19-foot cross in downtown Chicago.

Tom Brejcha, who serves as president and chief counsel at the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, noted in a statement the importance of exhibiting such symbols in the public square as religion is increasingly pushed out of it.

"The Easter celebration represents a constitutionally protected expression of religious faith by private citizens in a public forum," Brejcha said. "It is an appropriate response to the concerns raised over 39 years ago by the late Rev. Richard John Neuhaus in his book, The Naked Public Square."

"Neuhaus lamented that America's public spaces had been stripped of any references to religion or religious practices — as if it were somehow 'undemocratic' or 'uncivil' to celebrate Christian holidays out in the open where others could bear witness," he continued.

"This is truer than ever in today’s increasingly secular environment. But people still have worries, fears, and troubles. Christians believe that Jesus offers the hope that helps us all to address and answer those concerns," Brejcha added.

The display is also being sponsored by Tapestry Fellowship, City First Foundation, as well as Karl and Nancy Fritz, who designed and built this year's cross. 

It was raised Thursday night, and will remain in place for a week. 

An interdenominational Easter sunrise worship service will also be held at the cross on Sunday.

Because the display is privately funded without any government aid or endorsement, Brejcha noted that it is "clothed and armored with the full protection of the First Amendment of our United States Constitution."

"Indeed, in [1988], Chief U.S. District Judge James B. Parsons, entered a permanent injunction forbidding any discrimination against religion on Chicago’s Daley Plaza," he added.

In November 1988, Parsons ruled that the Public Building Commission of Chicago must allow both a Nativity scene and a menorah in Daley Plaza, according to The Chicago Tribune.

In his ruling, he noted the U.S. Supreme Court "has consistently ruled that religious expression enjoys the same kind of protection as political expression."

Attorneys with the Thomas More Society also worked pro bono last Christmas season to protect the rights of anyone who wanted to sponsor a Nativity scene at their state Capitol under the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Echoing his recent statement on Easter displays, Brejcha told The Christian Post last December that he believes Nativity scenes at state Capitols are important "because it's an exercise of fundamental constitutional rights that, if not exercised, are going to be lost or forgotten about."