Lehigh County and Its Cross: Federal Lawsuit Filed Over Religious Symbol in Official Seal

The seal dates back to the 1940s and the county previously said it has no plans to remove the cross

Lehigh County has been slapped with a federal lawsuit over its inclusion of a Latin cross in the center of the official county seal.

County residents Stephen Meholic, David Simpson, John Berry and Candace Winkler and Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation filed the lawsuit Tuesday. They say the seal violates the constitution by endorsing Christianity.

The cross sits in the center of the seal and is one of several symbols in the insignia which dates back to the 1940s.

The lawsuit seeks to have a judge rule the seal as unconstitutional and put forth an injunction to prevent its use across the county. They're also requesting 'nominal' damages for litigation fees and harm, the foundation said.

Patrick Russell, an attorney with the foundation, said the government can't use religious symbols at all in its insignia.

"There's probably about a dozen cases that have been struck down by the courts," he said. "The idea is that the government is supposed to be neutral on religion and not promote any religion."

The seal is displayed widely across the county, on flags, on county documents and websites and etched in stone outside buildings.

Lehigh County
Seal of Lehigh County

Last March, the Lehigh County Commissioners declined to change the seal after the foundation sent a letter threatening a lawsuit. The commissioners said the cross was included as a tribute to early Christian settlers.

The county declined comment citing the pending litigation, but some residents told NBC10 they don't have an issue with the cross.

"Unless you're really looking at it hard, you can't really tell it's a cross," one woman said.

David Hallman said it should stay adding "if the atheists don't like it, let them go to hell where they belong."

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