Tucson blows off group seeking removal of "A" mountain religious shrine

2013-07-12T16:09:00Z 2013-07-14T00:10:11Z Tucson blows off group seeking removal of "A" mountain religious shrineDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 12, 2013 4:09 pm  • 

The group demanding the city remove a religious shrine from “A” Mountain said they aren’t backing down just because the city blew them off.

Last week, city attorney Mike Rankin sent a two-sentence response to the Freedom From Religion Foundation informing them the city has no plans to take down the Lady of Guadalupe shrine which has sat atop the mountain for twenty years.

That news irked the folks at the Madison, WI-based FFRF.

Patrick Elliott, an FFRF attorney, said he was troubled by the city’s dismissive approach to a serious constitutional breach.

“We maintain that the City's allowance of permanent Catholic shrines on public property confers government endorsement of religion,” Elliott said in an email. “We hope that City officials take their constitutional obligations seriously and take action to have them removed."

Elliott added you don’t have to look far to see the city is on the wrong side of the law in this instance.

“A brief review of court precedent from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrates the unconstitutional nature of the shrines,” he wrote.

The FFRF is no stranger to legal action. The group has filed or been a part of dozens of lawsuits over the years.

As a far as suing the city goes, Elliott said his group is still weighing its options.

One city councilman thinks the group is wasting its time hounding the city over a few candles and pictures set-up by private citizens.

“I fail to see any connection between leaving a shrine up on 'A' mountain and the (first amendment),”Councilman Steve Kozachik said. “Leaving the shrine up on Sentinel Peak does not constitute our establishing the Church of Tucson and forcing people to worship at it.”

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Arizona Daily Star's Government blog includes stories and related items from Tucson and Pima County written by Star reporters Darren DaRonco and Jamar Younger.

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