ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – After an out-of-state organization requested the City of Elizabethton remove three crosses on Lynn Mountain, some members of the community are organizing ways to fight back.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation said Thursday the crosses are a violation of the First Amendment because they sit on a patch of public property on the mountain.
The foundation’s request triggered thousands of angry comments on social media. A small protest gathered on Friday, but another is in the works.
The foundation may also be facing legal action from Ryan Rice, a drone operator from Elizabethton, now living in Gray.
Rice said the foundation used a screenshot from one of his videos on their website without his consent. Rice said the crosses in question were not the ones on public property.
It was Easter 2020 when Ryan Rice took a video on his drone of three crosses in Elizabethton hoping to encourage folks in the early stages of the pandemic.
Rice had filmed the second set of crosses that can be seen from Broad Street. Those crosses are completely legal since they are on private property.
“I thought it would be nice to have some footage of that for people that were at home, doing church at home,” Rice said.
Rice didn’t expect to see the video again until he saw it used by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
“They had said that they found video online of those crosses and that banner, and I was thinking that’s probably my video that they found,” Rice said. “I went to their website and found they were using one of my images.”
The foundation linked to Rice’s video and used a screenshot of it on their webpage. The image the foundation posted was not of the set of crosses they wanted to take down.
Additionally, the foundation alleged there was a “Jesus is Lord” banner on Lynn Mountain, which is not the case. The banner is on the private property crosses.
“I completely disagree with this organization and their agenda, and feel like they’re pushing false information by claiming this banner is on city property,” Rice said.
He says the foundation never reached out to him.
Rice is now considering his next moves, and that could involve legal action against the foundation.
“I can reach out to lawyers,” Rice said. “It is illegal to use video or photography on a website that you did not get permission or purchase.”
Additionally, an Elizabethton resident is organizing a show of support for the crosses after church lets out on Sunday.
Paula Greene wants a peaceful gathering on Sunday to send a message to the foundation.
“I don’t want anger for this group because of what they’re trying to do. I want to come together as united as Christians,” Greene said. “Hopefully, this group if they see it, they will realize, you know, it’s your right to believe or not to believe, but us as a community we stand strong in that faith.”
Greene said the gathering will take place Sunday at 3:00 in the afternoon at the corner of Elk Avenue and Lynn.