ALTO PASS, IL (KFVS) - The battle over state funds used by the Friends of the Cross for restoration of Bald Knob Cross heated up on Friday.
That's when Atheist Rob Sherman filed a lawsuit against the Friends of the Cross and many state officials.
Sherman's complaint is that the Friends of the Cross aren't entitled to the $20,000 they received from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
"What Mr. Sherman doesn't seem to understand is that certainly this monument is the iconic image of Jesus Christ and his death. And our organization is of course Christian in nature," said Pastor Steve McKeown, president of Bald Knob Cross of Peace. "And our organization also is fulfilling a legitimate governmental goal to produce tourism in Southern Illinois."
McKeown says this past weekend more than a 1,000 people visited the cross to take the tour to the top.
"Those people spent money in gas in their cars to get here. Many of them drove a long way to see this cross. They ate lunches and all of that generates revenue for the state in tax dollars. Thus fulfilling a governmental goal," said McKeown.
Many of the people visiting the cross on Saturday afternoon felt that everyone should be entitled to their own beliefs about religion.
But, they don't want someone to try to stop the efforts to save the cross.
"It's a huge landmark. And we are privileged to have this in our community," said Alice Stearns. " And Mr. Sherman's views are very biased and opposed to those of us here in the area."
"If he doesn't like it he doesn't have to participate in it," said Aaron Ehrhart. "But we don't have to do what he wants us to do by not supporting the cross, that's just as wrong."
The tours to the top of the cross wrap up on Sunday afternoon. And then the final stages of the restoration of the Bald Knob Cross will begin, with the placement of the panels on the outside of the cross.