Seven-story cross lies on Texas hilltop before welders, steel erectors and crane companies raised the sculpture this week. (Photo: Coming King Foundation)

A 77-foot steel cross sculpture designed to “draw people to God” has been the subject of a nine-year legal battle and numerous complaints brought by atheists and members of the community who opposed the structure – but it’s now standing tall in Central Texas.

The Coming King Foundation announced that it has erected the red-brown contemporary sculpture named the Empty Cross, a structure that weighs 70 tons and cost $2 million. It said the hollow cross symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The sculpture now stands in Kerrville, Texas, and overlooks Interstate 10, the transcontinental highway connecting California and Florida.

The cross is intended to “draw people to God and to bless all those who visit the 23-acre Sculpture Prayer Garden in Kerrville, which will be free to the public,” said Coming King Foundation Vice President Jim McKnight in a statement.

The foundation noted that the cross project has received support from many public figures, including Mike Huckabee, James Dobson, Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, Rick Warren, the late Bill Bright and Oral Roberts.

Local welders, steel erectors and crane companies have been working with the foundation to raise the cross since July 26. The occasion comes at the end of a nine-year legal battle in which the group said its struggles included “attacks by atheists and others opposed to the cross, numerous letters to the media and city government and a lawsuit filed by neighboring landowners, which was settled.”

The Kerrville Daily Times reported that neighbors in adjoining subdivisions filed the lawsuit, claiming that the structure would violate deed restrictions and that the land cannot be used for commercial purposes. However, the city zoning regulations do not apply because the cross is located outside of city limits.

Artist and evangelist Max Greiner is the architect behind the seven-story hollow cross sculpture and prayer garden.

According to the foundation, Max and Sherry Greiner said God “called” them on Dec. 9, 2001, to construct a “last-days, outdoor tabernacle” to share the love of Jesus Christ with the world.

The “walk-in” cross sculpture now sits at the top of a 1,930-foot hill near a 100-yard, cross-shaped garden that will soon feature 77 Bible scriptures on etched ceramic tiles in multiple languages.

Max Greiner said, “Like the American flag that was raised in World War II at Iwo Jima, we believe God will use the raising of ‘The Empty Cross’ to energize and inspire Christians across our land to rise up and fight for the Christian principles that founded this great country.”

Other crosses across the nation have faced similar challenges and lawsuits.

As WND reported in April, the Supreme Court raised the bar for those who express an “offense” because of the Christian faith, determining that the Mojave cross in California could remain on the knoll of rock where it stood for more than seven decades.

But the cross was knocked down by vandals once the Supreme Court affirmed the symbol.

In yet another case, WND reported that the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial near San Diego has endured a 20-year legal battle. In July, a judge concluded that the symbol is constitutional and can remain on federal property. The cross has been in that location for 54 years.

However, Richard Thompson, chief of the Thomas More Law Center, a nonprofit legal group active in the case, warned, “Sadly, I fully expect the ACLU attorneys to appeal this decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. So this fight is not over.”

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