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A group that advocates for the separation of church and state wants the City of Effingham to remove a cross from a mural on city-owned property. Among the hundreds of comments on our story Friday about that and on an online poll on the topic is the roseworthy suggestion that the city sign over the deed to that property to a private group. Perhaps the foundation that maintains the cross. Your EDN editor doesn’t know the legal ramifications of that, partly because city officials have declined to discuss details of the situation until they sort it all out among themselves. There are probably liability issues on the public right-of-way. In any case, people who want the image to remain have scheduled a demonstration Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at Effingham City Hall called “Standing Up for Jesus.”

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The EDN has written dozens – perhaps hundreds – of stories related to the Cross at the Crossroads since it was completed in 2001. A 2018 story about its history noted: “A faith-based group named The Cross Foundation was formed with members from several different faiths in the Effingham and surrounding areas, along with business leaders. After raising $1 million for the project and five years of planning, the cross became a reality. Over 200 community members representing church leaders and volunteers gathered at the First Baptist Church in Effingham for a kick-off inauguration ceremony on Feb. 11, 2001, according to the Feb. 28, 2001 edition of the EDN. After a prayer from foundation member Tom Wright, 13 children from 12 area churches were recognized and brought to the construction site for a groundbreaking ceremony. ... Children participating in the groundbreaking ceremony included Levi McElroy, First Baptist Church of Louisville; Ben Lovel, First Baptist Church of Effingham; Broc Krietemyer, Effingham Willow Street Church of Christ; Bethany Stuemke, A.S.K. Ministries; Aminta Brooks, New Hope Baptist Church, Effingham; Holly Petty, Crossroads Free Will Baptist Church, Effingham; Rachel Timmerman, Effingham Assembly of God; John Jacob Barcroft, Crossroads Free Will Baptist Church, Effingham; Caleb McCluskey, Oak Street Baptist Church of Flora; Erica Meek, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Effingham; A.J. Harris, First Church of God, Effingham; Alex Wright, Grace Lutheran Church of Dieterich; and Blake Koerner, St. Anthony Catholic Church, Effingham. ... The cross is located east of Effingham and south of Fayette Avenue exit 159, where drivers from both Interstates 70 and 57 can view the 198-foot tower with a 115-foot cross arm. The Cross was built at a height just under the FAA requirement for installing a red light on top of the structure. There are 10 marker stones placed around the base of the cross each inscribed with one of the Ten Commandments. Five days after the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, The Cross at the Crossroads was officially dedicated and lit up for the first time with over 3,000 people in attendance.”

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Your EDN editor notes that Craig Lindvahl was serving as a Cross Foundation member at the time of its construction. Lindvahl, a beloved member of the community, died on Thursday. Roses are offered in his memory, and to the lasting legacy his efforts have planted here. The former Teutopolis High School music teacher and band director founded the nationally recognized Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities program for high school students. He was selected as the Effingham Daily News Citizen of the Year in 2015 and that year was also appointed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner to the Illinois State Board of Education. Lindvahl was the featured speaker at the May 2019 National Day of Prayer breakfast, where he told a large crowd that God had answered his prayers by putting his wife, Beth, in his life. He also said God led him to Teutopolis when he was seeking a place to start his career after graduating from Eastern Illinois University. “While I wish I wasn’t telling you this, I’m fine. I’m at peace with everything. I’m happy on the inside,” Lindvahl said in an interview with the EDN shortly after his cancer diagnosis in 2015. “I want to use this as an opportunity to teach, to make people better, to help them understand what’s important in life, what matters. That’s what I want to use with whatever time I have left.”

Effingham Daily News Editor Jeff Long can be reached at jeff.long@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 129.

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Graduated with a degree in journalism from UW-Madison in 1987. Reporter at a newspaper outside London, England. Then a reporter at papers in Pennsylvania and Virginia. For 13 years, a reporter and editor at the Chicago Tribune. Named EDN editor in 2014.

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