The Kansas House is considering a bill that would allow religious symbols on public land.
According to the bill, religious symbols would be allowed if they are part of the community's history or heritage. This bill was introduced in response to an incident last summer when the community of Buhler was threatened with a lawsuit because its city symbol contained a cross.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation said the city's official design violated the U.S. Constitution by favoring Christianity over other religions. The town replaced it with similar signs on private land.
Thursday, Rep. Don Schroeder of Hesston told the Federal and State Affairs Committee in the House he believed religious displays like the ones Buhler are constitutional.
"A lot of people talk about 'separation of church and state,' " Schroeder said. "That's not in the Constitution. However, there is an establishment clause, which says the government shall make no law regarding religion. It doesn't go the other way around; it doesn't say that religion cannot be involved in government."
A representative of the Great Plains chapter of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State disagreed with Schroeder's interpretation.
"Why would you have in the Constitution the fact that the government can't interfere with religion, but religion can interfere with the government?" said Vickie Sandell Stangl. "How does that protect the government? How does that make a stable society if it's not a two-way street?"
The bill would also allow religious displays in public schools, if used in a course that "does not favor or disfavor any religion or religious belief."
The House is expected to vote on the bill next week.