Lehigh County to appeal against judge's ruling on Christian cross on seal and flag

Lehigh County commissioners are trying to save the Christian cross on their official seal and flag and have voted in favor of appealing against a federal judge's ruling that the image was a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Paul Leiby)Allentown, Pennsylvania in Lehigh County, 2010.

On Oct. 11, Lehigh County commissioners voted 6-3 to appeal Judge Edward Smith's Sept. 28 ruling against the Christian cross on their seal and flag. Democrats Dan Hartzell, David Jones, and Geoff Brace were the ones who voted against the move, WFMZ Allentown detailed.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, an organization based in Wisconsin that actively advocates for the separation of church and state, threatened to sue Lehigh County in 2014 and 2015 if it did not take the cross out of its official logo. The group said the Christian image violated the Establishment Clause which prohibits government agencies from promoting one faith over another, The Morning Call reported.

However, Lehigh County commissioners refused to cave in to FFRF's threats and unanimously passed a resolution last year which stated that the cross had historical significance and stood for the Christians who colonized the area. This prompted the Wisconsin group to go ahead with its lawsuit in 2016.

Judge Smith admitted in his ruling that the Christian cross was just a passive symbol and in no way forced anyone to embrace Christianity. However, he begrudgingly pointed out that the cross was a violation of the Establishment Clause since it honored Lehigh's Christian settlers.

"While the court may not fully agree with the test provided, the court must apply that test," Judge Smith wrote in his 23-page ruling.

Although Judge Smith did not tell Lehigh County to immediately modify its official seal, he instead requested the FFRF to submit a proposal for injunction to bar the future use of the seal bearing the Christian cross.

The appeal against Judge Smith's decision on Lehigh County's seal and flag will be filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.