A 52-year-old, 28-foot cross that was lit up for Easter and Christmas at Albany Hill Park has been removed by the City of Albany because it promotes one religion over others, and to boot, its electrical writing may pose a fire risk.

If you’ve ever been to Albany Hill Park, some 25 miles northeast of San Francisco, you may have noticed that a 28-foot Christian cross (seen below) sits atop one of its hills. The cross was put there by the local chapter of the Lions Club in 1971, and was lit up every Easter and the week prior to Christmas. To detractors, the cross on city-owned property is a pretty obvious violation of the separation of church and state, and there have been lawsuits over it for years.

Image: Ed U. via Yelp

According to the Bay Area News Group, critics say the cross “symbolizes a preference of one religion over others, offends some members of the city’s diverse communities, is reminiscent of KKK cross-burnings in the East Bay hills in the 1920s, and is an eyesore.”

The News Group reports that the cross was just quietly removed from the park, and has been placed in storage while its fate is determined. The Lions Club is up in arms, though the land is no longer private, which it was when the cross was erected. And a federal judge had already ordered it removed in 2018, which city officials have now finally done.

“For the small local group of people that really want to see the cross stay, when you’ve had such privilege for so long, losing it feels like being oppressed,” Albany Mayor Aaron Tiedemann told the News Group. “That’s going to be an adjustment for folks, but I think we will all get used to it, and I think it’s a real benefit.”

Additionally, the thing constitutes a fire risk with all the electrical lines around trees. PG&E  had cut the power in 2017, but then restored it again, with the Lions Club complaining that removing the power lines was “part of a harassment campaign.”

And the Lions Club is still complaining. “I think they just gave the city of Albany a black eye,” Albany Lions Club president Kevin Pope told the News Group. “There’s a lot of people who love it being up there — a lot of people go up there and pray and have church services. It’s sacred ground to us, and taking it down shows their intolerance toward Christian values.”

The controversy recalls SF’s Mount Davidson cross, which went up in wooden form in the 1920s, was replaced with a permanent concrete version in 1934, and made a cameo in the 1971 film Dirty Harry. That cross too was ruled unconstitutional, but the city sidestepped that ruling in 1997 by selling the small patch of land it sits on to the Armenian American Organizations of Northern California.  

The trial on whether the Albany Hill cross will be returned, or if the Lions Club will be forced to accept some settlement from the city, is scheduled to begin July 17.

Related: San Francisco Is Only The Fourth Most Godless Place In The Country, Study Finds [SFist]

Image: Eve E via Yelp