CLAREMONT — If the city does not remove a nativity scene and menorah it displays each year at Broad Street Park, an atheist is threatening to erect an anti-Christian display of his own.
“It’s going to piss a lot of people off,” said Sam Killay, 36.
Killay says the city must remove the religious displays or at least move them to private property.
“It belongs at a church, not on public land,” he said.
As an atheist, Killay said seeing religious symbols on city property is offensive. He said if he is forced to put up with it, he will do his best to offend Claremont’s religious citizens.
Killay first considered just putting up an atheist logo, but said people wouldn’t likely recognize it. Instead, he plans to use an explicit anti-religious image such as satanic symbols like the pentagram or an inverted cross.
The atheist has just such a cross tattooed on his back.
While the inverted cross has been adopted by some as an anti-Christian image, it is a traditional Christian symbol known as the Petrine Cross, or St. Peter’s Cross. St. Peter was crucified on an inverted cross and the symbol has been used for centuries to honor the saint.
Killay, who has lived in Claremont for the past seven years, said he was flabbergasted when he first saw the nativity scene and menorah. After his initial complaints he was told by city officials that Claremont residents want the displays. Killay backed off at first, but last year decided to try and do something about it.
“I don’t think I’m asking too much,” Killay said.
After writing letters to area newspapers, Killay took his fight to the city council, reading a statement on the record demanding that the city remove the religious displays or at least display them on private property instead of at the park.
His request was taken under advisement by the council, but it is not clear what, if anything, the city will do in response. Mayor Charlene Lovett was not at the meeting with Killay, but understands that there is now an issue surrounding the displays.
Assistant Mayor Allen Damren said the council hasn’t had an opportunity to discuss Killay’s complaint yet and unsure what actions if any the council might take.
“Personally, I don’t have an issue with (the current displays),” Damren said.