Finley River Park cross

A LIGHTED BLUE CROSS stands in Finley River Park in Ozark as part of a drive-through holiday light display.

 

New efforts are underway to keep a lighted blue cross on display at Finley River Park in Ozark. What’s more, a small group of citizens led by a state lawmaker and noted Christian County businessman aims to have the lights on every night throughout the year.

State Rep. Lynn Morris, R-Nixa, organized meetings in Ozark and in Nixa with the goal of making moves to light the public display year-round. He is also organizing citizens to designate Ozark as the “city of crosses,” and Christian County as the “county of crosses.”

For the most part, the newspaper readers who are following our coverage of the effort seem to support Morris’ effort.

“Love it!”

“Keep it lit 365.”

“A-Men.”

That’s a sampling of the comments left in a Facebook thread where we shared a link to the story of a meeting held in Ozark that also included Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield.

Haahr said he wasn’t certain if a designation from the state legislature would be needed in order for Ozark or Christian County to claim the designations Morris and his group seek. In order to be known for crosses, Morris said, more public cross displays would need to go up around Ozark.

“All for making Ozark and Christian County known for beautiful crosses… and primarily the faith and love that they stand for. Mine is ready, just say the word,” a commenter wrote on the online version of a Headliner News story.

“Our country needs this cross now more than ever,” a Facebook commenter wrote, including five images of the American flag.

This appears to be a case where the majority of the people who live in and around Ozark are happy with the resolution to an issue that surfaced in late 2018, when the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent letters to the city of Ozark asking that the cross display be removed from Finley River Park. Instead, the cross was moved to the southern half of the park, onto land owned by the private Christian County Agriculture and Mechanical Society.

Some finer points of laws about land ownership, maintenance and utility bill paying are likely to be made in the coming weeks and months. What about the people in Christian County who are not practicing Christians? What message does the blue lighted cross send to them, and are they saddened, harmed, neglected or made to feel less-than by this display?

“Rep. Morris, please remember that your actions toward the ‘least of these’ far better serves Christ than paying a utility bill for a prideful and arrogant display of elitism, which fails in its effort to represent Christ and our community,” a commenter wrote on our website.

The crux of the cross debate comes down to how the feelings and desires of what seems to be a pro-cross majority conflicts with the views of what becomes a minority group, and what rights and laws that minority group may act under to take its case forward. We will continue coverage of the movement to light the cross in the park and make Ozark the “city of crosses” as needed in the future. Judging by our best available measuring tools, people are interested in that coverage.

—Rance Burger

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