Lehigh Valley

Lehigh County attempts to save Christian cross on seal, flag

Lehigh County Commissioners voted Wednesday night to appeal a federal judge's ruling that an image of the Christian cross on the county's official seal and flag has violated the United States Constitution.

The vote was 6-3 with Democrats Geoff Brace, Dan Hartzell and David Jones dissenting.

The case against the Sept. 28 ruling of Judge Edward Smith's decision will be filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Smith's Sept. 28 ruling was a victory for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 organization that promotes an atheist, agnostic and theistic agenda. The group filed a lawsuit against the county saying the cross' violated the Establishment Clause and must be expunged. Commissioners have said previously the symbol represents the Christian settlers who colonized the region as historical fact and was not an endorsement of Christianity.

The FFRF has by practice sought to ban religious statues, praying and nativity displays during Christmas on public property by filing several lawsuits throughout the United States since its establishment in 1978.

In other news, the legislative body adopted the 2018 budget and also amended the job classification and pay plans for consistency. The vote was 9-0. 

"Thank God we're near the end of this process," Commissioner Percy Dougherty said before the vote was taken.

Executive Tom Muller's proposed budget includes a stabilization fund with a proposed beginning fund balance of nearly $23 million and a proposed ending fund balance of $19.8 million. The proposed budget would keep the tax rate at 3.64 mills -- no increase. The owner of a home with an assessment of $177,200 would be responsible for $645 in taxes.

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