(CNSNews.com) – An atheist who sued the mayor of Corpus Christi and two city council members for allegedly violating the Texas Constitution by attending a groundbreaking ceremony for “the tallest cross in the Western Hemisphere” has withdrawn his lawsuit.
The lawsuit Patrick Greene filed earlier this month in Nueces County District Court accused Mayor Nelda Martinez and City Council members Lucy Rubio and Carolyn Vaughn of violating the state constitution’s prohibition on giving a preference to any particular religion by attending the Sunday groundbreaking ceremony in January.
Greene told Fox News that the 210-foot-tall cross, which is being erected on property belonging to the Abundant Life Fellowship and financed by private donations, was “tacky as hell” and a “safety hazard.”
"When I saw the mayor in her official position and the council in their official positions attending a groundbreaking ceremony for a Christian symbol – that smacked right in the face of the Constitution of the state of Texas," Greene said.
Pastor Rick Milby said he was inspired to build the giant cross when he saw the 170-foot Sagemont Church Cross in Houston. Milby, one of the original defendants, had already been dropped from the case.
An unrepentant Martinez told the Corpus Christi Caller Times that building a cross overlooking Corpus Christi Bay was a dream of her late father’s.
“The name of our city is ‘Body of Christ’ and I will tell you, I will never forget that conversation I had with my father about his dream and his hope," she said, adding that “I will never regret being there for this wonderful moment.”
The mayor also defended her “constitutional right” to attend Christian celebrations in the future.
“I learned today Mr. Greene is dismissing his suit,” the mayor said in a statement on Wednesday. “Mr. Greene said he is doing this because of his wife’s medical condition. I am praying for Mr. Greene’s wife.
“I did not want to respond with anger and ask the Court to punish Mr. Greene for filing a clearly frivolous and groundless lawsuit,” Martinez continued.
“However, Mr. Greene is on notice. Should he refile, we will have no other option but to utilize the legal system to defend our taxpayers from such a baseless suit.
“In my official and personal capacity, I will continue to attend celebrations like the groundbreaking of the Corpus Christi Cross. I respect all faiths and beliefs and have the constitutional right to be afforded the same in my Christian faith."
“This case is personal to me,” Vaughn also said in a statement. “I am a member of the church where the cross is being built: the church is where my family and I go to worship. To me, the cross has deep personal meaning, especially as we approach the Easter holiday. It is a sign of love and hope.
“I consider it a duty and honor to protect my church's right, my family's right and most of all my God-given right to express my personal faith and belief and to stand up as an American to defend our freedom to worship our God and express our religious beliefs.”
On January 28, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an “official recognition” of the groundbreaking.
“Throughout our great state, communities of faith work every day to share God’s message of love and put it into action. This 210-foot cross will do just that on a truly grand scale, and it’s only fitting that it tower over the city called ‘the Body of Christ’.
"I am confident this monument to the sacrifice the savior of the world made for each of us will serve as a testament to your deep faith and conviction and a reminder to the Christian community of the promise that lies ahead,” the governor said.
“It’s always appropriate for a church to invite members of their community to attend their services, and city officials are free to attend church services as they so desire,” said Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for the First Liberty Institute, which represented the church.
“That’s what religious liberty means.”