Cross supporters march on Camp Verde Town Hall

CAMP VERDE - A crowd of about 70 residents, most of them members of local churches, showed up at Wednesday's Town Council meeting to voice their opposition to the removal of a Christian cross that once hung in the Community Center gym.

The evening's agenda had originally called for an executive session in which the council would receive legal advice from their attorney in private.

However, it was the unanimous decision of the council to have attorney Bill Sims' advice heard in public.

Seated in the very venue in which the cross once hung, the audience listened as Sims gave them a brief lesson in history, constitutional law, state law and case law, as they applies to the establishment clause in the first amendment.

"We are here tonight because of our founding fathers,' Sims said at the beginning of his presentation, as news cameras from Phoenix television station KTVK watched. "As the drafters of the constitution, they were fearful of persecution from both the church and the king."

Sims went on to tell the audience that the courts have wrestled with the question for more than two centuries and have tried to strike a balance that protects the minority of non-Christian citizens, permits the free exercise of religion and establishes governmental neutrality.

In reference to the cross in question, Sims said, "There is a way to strike a balance. The courts have said you must cover it or remove it," when the gym is not being used by the Bread of Life.

Following Sims' presentation, members of the audience had their chance to express their frustrations.

Those frustrations ran the gamut from "If they don't like it they don't have to come here," to "cover it, but don't take it down," to "one person shouldn't be able to come here and tell us what to do."

As the agenda item was only for advice from the attorney, no action was taken.

There will be two action items on the July 15 agenda, both added at the request of council member Norma Garrison, in reference to the cross issue.

The first will be a review of the actions taken by Town Manger Mike Scannell related to the removal of the cross. The second item will be a discussion and possible action to decide what to do next.

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