A Memorial Day display featuring crosses to honor fallen soldiers was removed from public property in Georgia after someone questioned whether the soldiers were all Christian.
The 79 white, handmade crosses posted on public property along state Highway 92 in Hiram, Ga., were meant to represent the 79 Paulding County residents who died in America’s wars, according to town officials.
But the crosses were abruptly taken down last Friday after someone called Hiram City Hall questioning whether the cross is an appropriate symbol for the memorial.
Hiram Mayor Teresa Philyaw said the cross display, which she approved and planned, was never intended to be religious.
“It was never about religion — it was just to honor them,” Philyaw told FoxNews.com on Tuesday. “I was devastated when it had to come down.”
“We wanted to make sure that they weren’t forgotten. We also wanted their families to know that our hearts still bleed for them,” she said. “At the time, it never, ever crossed my mind about the religious factor in it.”
“The cross is a ‘rest in peace’ symbol to me,” said Philyaw.
But not everyone in the Georgia town with a population of 2,332 agrees with Philyaw.
Hours after the crosses were posted, an unnamed resident called the office of city manager Barry Atkinson and asked whether all 79 military personnel were Christians.
Philyaw said they had died in wars from World War I to Iraq and Afghanistan. She said to her knowledge, none of their families had complained.
The cross memorial has since ignited fierce debate on social media — with many people saying its removal is political correctness run amok, while others argued all faiths should be represented.
“The 79 veterans from Paulding County who sacrificed their lives for our nation are being taken down for the Memorial Day holiday because some find it offensive,” wrote one Facebook user. “Tell that to the families of these brave veterans who died for us so we can have freedom and shame on you, mayor of Hiram, Georgia, for caving in to their demands.”
“It is impossible to do anything good in this world anymore,” wrote another.
Some Facebook users posted photos of other memorial sites in which crosses were used to honor the fallen.
Barry Atkinson indicated he agreed with the decision to remove the crosses, WSB-TV reported.
The phone call, Atkinson told the station, “opened our eyes that we missed something here.”
“We immediately took corrective action,” he said.
Atkinson also noted that the caller offered to make a donation should the city plan to build a permanent memorial.
“If Hiram was willing to do a permanent veterans memorial, they offered to make a cash contribution, so I wouldn’t say they were really mad,” he said.
Some Hiram residents, meanwhile, are searching for private property where the crosses can be displayed, according to the station.
For her part, Philyaw said, “If there is one of those 79 that they know to be of a different religious belief, we will gladly put up.”
A city council meeting is schedule for Tuesday night to debate the proper way in which to honor the fallen heroes.
“Whatever the choice is, a memorial of some kind will be displayed,” said Philyaw.