City Asked to Remove Cross from Overpass Mural


Published on December 31 2019 10:57 am
Last Updated on December 31 2019 11:43 am
Written by Greg Sapp

Tunnel Cross

A petition has been started, protesting efforts to have a cross removed from the mural painted on the Raney Street overpass next to Effingham High School.

The mural was created by local artist Jamie Stang-Ellis of Stang Arts, and was commissioned by the Effingham High School Football Moms.

We spoke by phone Tuesday morning with Jamie Stang-Ellis. She said she was contacted by City Administrator Steve Miller, who indicated the cross needed to be removed. She said Miller was apologetic, but said the action needs to be taken.

Effingham Mayor Mike Schutzbach Tuesday made available a letter received from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, requesting that the cross be removed from the mural. The letter indicates that a local resident contacted their foundation about the cross being a part of the mural. The letter cites Supreme Court rulings as recently as earlier this year that a recent work of art such as the mural on a publicly-owned property is unconstitutional.

The letter from the Mayor was part of an email in which he states that the City was approached seeking approval for the mural. Approval was granted once the City consulted Unit 40. Schutzbach wrote, "it was not known to the city or school that a cross would be part of the artwork. After the work was completed, a complaint was filed."

An online petition that has appeared on Facebook was started by local resident Jarrett Jones, a student at SIU Carbondale. Jones indicated in a Twitter conversation Tuesday morning he doesn't know who contacted the City about the cross in the mural, and that he started the petition in support of Jamie Stang-Ellis.

We spoke with an Effingham City Council member Monday night who said he only became aware of the matter earlier that day. He indicated the full Council has not discussed the matter.

There are efforts underway to rally citizens to speak at the January 7 City Council meeting about the issue.