Veterans Memorial cross in Taos sparks church-state debate

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TAOS, N.M. (KRQE) – A giant cross at a public veteran’s memorial is the newest battleground in the fight over separation of church and state. The cross has been up in the famed Taos Plaza for decades, but now a national group wants it to come down.

A memorial, which features the large cross, has sat in the middle of Taos Plaza for nearly six decades.

Now the Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking the Town of Taos to take it down, saying it violates the separation of church and state and can be seen as an endorsement of a religion by the local government.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said a Taos resident reached out early last year, asking for the group’s help getting the cross taken down. The foundation said it has sent four letters to Taos officials in the past year, and has not gotten a response. They said this could lead to a lawsuit.

According to the letter the foundation sent to the town manager and town council, the foundation states the cross is an “unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” and points to a 10th Circuit Court decision that states, “a memorial cross is not a generic symbol of death.โ€

KRQE News 13 spoke with people who live in Taos who said they are proud of the town’s culture and rich history, and they do not see anything wrong with the cross that sits atop the memorial.

“It is a war memorial that has historical significance to the culture of Taos,โ€ said Amos Gray, a Taos resident. “That’s kind of our own cultural affect in Taos, at least.โ€

“This town and state has a lot of old missions and it’s a very religious state,โ€ said Steve Pacheco, a Taos resident. โ€œ”Why are you trying to change religion here, in a state that you don’t even live in?”

Town leaders were not available to comment on this story.

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