I’ve mentioned many times in my various entries on religion that I generally don’t have a problem with most believers until their beliefs start to cause problems for others. This article is a perfect example of that concept.
PEPPERELL—The cross is blue and stands 24 feet high.
And it’s illuminated, shining so brightly that it has been compared to the lights that road crews use for construction work at night.
“Jesus asked for it,” said Noel Dube, 83-year-old proprietor of the Our Lady of Fatima Community Shrine, which he founded 12 years ago next to his home on Heald Street.
Its light was bright enough so that the neighbors inside their house could read a book at night. Dube has since added backing to the cross so the light doesn’t shine directly into their home, but it still produces glare.
And because it was installed a mere 10 feet from the property boundary, the cross has revived questions about the legality of Dube’s intentions.
“It’s unneighborly, and that’s all I want to convey,” said the neighbor, Nancy Caldwell, an equine muscular therapist whose family moved to Pepperell for its peaceful rural charm.
The article describes the “community shrine” Noel Dube set up as being a collection of religious statues, grottoes, walkways, benches, gardens and religious artwork featuring a 60 by 20 foot mural of the fabled Fatime miracle as well as a three-story-tall painting of Jesus Christ. The 30 foot Jesus has already prompted one lawsuit from the city and neighbor complaints over the illuminated cross will likely start another. All of this because some poor old guy believes Jesus contacted him personally and requested this of him. I have no doubts that Dube sincerely believes he is acting in good faith on a request from a higher power.
To their credit the current neighbors have been pretty tolerant of all of this nonsense. At least until the lighted cross went in. Naturally, Dube is laying claim to his rights of freedom of religion as a defense for his shrine, which he estimates receives around 4,000 visitors a year.
There are a few parallels between this dispute and the dispute over “Roy’s Rock” in Alabama that you may have picked up on. Both Mr. Dube and Judge Roy Moore believe they are merely doing what God wants them to do, both believe they have received these tasks from personal communication with Jesus Christ, both shrines infringe on the rights of others (though in different ways) and both are laying claim to their right of “freedom of religion” as justification for their actions. The key difference being that one infraction was by a representative of the government of Alabama in a public building whereas the other is by a private individual on his own private property. Of the two, Mr. Dube probably has more of a legal leg to stand on than Judge Roy Moore. I also tend to think that Moore’s motivation is based more on the political mileage he gains from his grandstanding than anything else.
Good intentions or not, I don’t think most folks would want to live next to shrine that had a 24 foot Biblical beacon shining into their home all night long. For a lot of folks who are not Christian the two ton granite Decalogue in the Alabama Supreme Court rotunda is just as offensive and annoying as a 24 foot light up cross would be. Perhaps more so because it implies an endorsement by the government of Alabama for Christianity over all other religious viewpoints.