Atheists in Wisconsin are threatening legal action over a water tower in Oklahoma.
Christian landowners in Broken Arrow were approached by the local government over its desire to build a water tower on their property. The First Baptist Church kindly said it would donate the land, provided its name was painted on the tower. The Freedom From Religion Foundation found out about the deal and threatened a lawsuit.
“Our people are very generous,” pastor Nick Garland told Fox News on Tuesday. “We want to be good citizens as well as good Christian folks representing the kingdom of God. We’re in the business of talking about Living Water, and this [deal] provided water for a community and water for our church and water for a whole new area of the city to develop.”
City Attorney Beth Anne Wilkening told television station KOTV-6 on March 16 that Broken Arrow was not advocating Christianity with its deal.
“It wasn’t intended to endorse any sort of religion; it was simply to recognize them for the land contribution. It was a contract,” Wilkening said.
Some of FFRF’s own Facebook follower’s were disgusted with the lawsuit.
“I fully understand the purpose of FFRF,” said Shane Dobkins on March 21. “When they are fighting to keep mandatory prayer out of public classrooms and Ten Commandment plaques out of courthouses, they get two thumbs up from me. But I think this is petty and beside the point. That is my personal and honest opinion, and I’m sticking to it. If we are truly down to nitpicking water towers, congrats FFRF, you have officially won the war.”
“I’m a huge supporter of many of the issues FFRF addresses, that being said, this one seemed a little weird to me,” said Cassandra Melissa Cardon on March 19. “We place signs on the freeways thanking groups that adopt a highway. Those signs come from taxpayer funds in recognition of the group providing a public service for all the citizens. Since the church basically gave the land to be used by all the city’s citizens, it seems more a nod and thanks from the community rather than a straight, ‘Here’s my religion in your face,’ issue.”
Pastor Garland told Fox that city officials have been “very gracious” in standing up to FFRF’s threats, which have come in since December.
“At some point, that name is going to have to come off the water tower,” attorney Andrew Seidel told television station KTUL-8 on March 15. “The water tower is in fact, government owned, and on government land. And as such, it can’t be advertising for any religion.”
FFRF says the tower violates section two of the Oklahoma Constitution, which reads, “Public money or property shall not be used to support any church, sect or religion.”
Wilkening told KOKI-23 on March 21 that officials were exploring ways to avoid a lawsuit. She said estimates to repaint the one-million-gallon tank could cost up to $600,000.