Battle Brewing In Livingston Over Cross On Resident’s Front Lawn

LIVINGSTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Whose cross will it be to bear?

As you turn onto Sterling Drive in Livingston it’s the first thing you see: a large cross on Patrick Racaniello’s front lawn.

The township told Racaniello a cross he attached to a tree in his yard during Lent violated an ordinance prohibiting residents from putting up anything within 10 feet of a right of way designed to attract attention.

1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan reports: Legal Or Illegal?

So, he took it down and erected a larger cross about 10 feet from the curb and contacted the Alliance Defense Fund, a coalition of Christian lawyers.

The group may take legal action against the township.

The town said they are sensitive to First Amendment rights. Officials say the cross is a distraction to drivers and are simply protecting the public good.

The battle has sparked a debate amongst Racaniello’s neighbors.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney In New Jersey

“You’re going to see that and not the kids so you’re going to hit somebody,” one man said.

“”I guess it’s his property, he could do whatever he wants on his property, as long as it’s within the mandates of the town,” another man argued.

A federal land-use law — enacted in 2000 to provide stronger protection for religious freedom — may come in to play in this controversy.

Generally, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act prevents government entities from creating undue burdens on religious exercise and expression.

Whose side are you on? Let us know below…

  • Betty

    “Meme Meyagi

    if anyone is a nazi, then it is you linder, or whatever your name is. can you point to a place in scripture that says to put a cross in front of your house? didn’t think so.”

    Hdy, Meme. Can you point to a place in Scripture that says to not put a cross in front of your hous? Didn’t think so.

  • kaitlin

    I am shocked to see the picture above because I expected something much more distracting. The cross does not look distracting at all. It is made of two slim pieces of wood that don’t look more than 3 inches wide and it almost disappears into his attractive front yard. In fact, the eye is drawn towards the flag instead because if its bright color. This sounds like discrimination more than anything else. Livingston needs to accept that not everyone in Livingston is Jewish. Sorry.

  • confused

    So,if it was a rainbow flag it would be ok

  • nottajew

    blame dajews…….agen

  • jim

    What seems strange to me is the cross shouldn’t offend anyone unless of course you are the devil

    • LG

      Or a vampire…

      • NorthernSnowBird

        In that case, a good garden of garlic should solve the problem.

  • real american

    The atheists out there don’t complain much about anything except christians.A sign that says “heaven”,a cross at ground zero,a cross on a lawn,the 10 commandments being displayed. What are you afraid of???In this country we have freedom “of” religion, not freedom “from” religion. Thats what makes this country great.Once we loose that, we will be no better than North Korea, Burma, or Iran, where these freedoms aren’t tolerated.Be careful what you wish for………..

    • NorthernSnowBird

      We may be closer to those scenarios than you think. August 2.

  • Larry Bush

    What will it be next week? The grass is too green? Besides there is already too damn many rules.

  • Joseph Didonato

    Another sick Christian who has to show his an idiot by putting up a cross. What about the other neighbors? Guess he does not care, typical Christian behavior, it’s all about them.

    • meg

      No, Joseph, it’s not always about the Christians…. I see plenty in the media, in advertising and in our own communities that don’t reflect Christian beliefs or practices…. I am, for one, sick of cynical athiests who criticize people of faith…

      If you don’t believe in the values Christ taught, fine… I just don’t understand why you insist on argueing about something you don’t even believe in. Why would you even click on a story about a cross or anything Christian? I think you’re just an unhappy person and resent the joy of those who have found Christ.

      • NorthernSnowBird

        Because, dear one, the emergence of the christian right wing Taliban have made reall Christians look and sound so bad, even true Christians are suffering from the bipolr effect.It’s sad, but until and unless the American christian Taliban pull in their horns, you and your friends will continue to be pilloried. Life’s hard, Toots, but it does go on. Blessings to ya!

    • Ann Marie Kellett

      It is his property. If you don’t want to look at the cross look the other way. Oh and I believe it should be “he’s an idiot” not “his an idiot”. I guess I’m just another Christian idiot but at least I can write properly.

      • Ann Marie Kellett

        No Rob, I didn’t do unto others as was done to me. I pointed out his mistake whereas he called all Christians idiots. There is a big difference. For instance right now I am calling you on your willful ignorance and anti-Christian bigotry I am not calling you an idiot.

      • Rob E.

        Jesus must be very proud how you just “did unto others” there.
        VERY Christian of you.

      • NorthernSnowBird

        Good girl, Ann Marie… another fine member of the Grammar Police. Good on ya!

    • kevin

      who cares what you think muslum

    • Tyler Lorge

      Then you must be one of the sick ones as you say….because you havent changed your CHRISTIAN Name ‘Joseph” buddy boy?????

  • bullett

    I believe that Mr. Racaniello is within his first amendment rights to place a cross on his property. No different then if he wanted to burn the American flag, or fly it upside down. After all, we Americans are suppose to be allowed freedom of religion under the law, or has someone changed it?

  • Meme Meyagi

    why is this guy putting a cross on his lawn? is he trying to start a church or what? i understand if this was a holiday and he put a decoration there, but it looks like he is trying to stick it to everyone else. if he wants to start a church he should get a proper rezoning certificate and build a church. what he is doing is completely uncalled for.

    • Linder

      Oh my, its the CROSS NAZI!!

      Get a better arguement or get a life. Dont be so JUDGEMENTAL!! or paranoid. No one is trying to “stick it to everyone else”. This is America and if someone wants a reasonable sized cross rather then a water foutain, pond, concrete ornaments, pergola so be it. People have the right to express who they are and how they want there yard to look. His cross is not very big. No bigger then a standard ARBOR. Would a rose arbor cause a stir,…I think not!!!

      Hows your yard looking these days???

      • Meme Meyagi

        if anyone is a nazi, then it is you linder, or whatever your name is. can you point to a place in scripture that says to put a cross in front of your house? didn’t think so.

      • Rob E.

        A rose arbor is not a symbol of oppression, rape, sodomization and pedophilia like the Christian Cross and Christian/Catholic Church has come to symbolize.

        So, yeah, I think the cross would cause more of as stir than a rose arbor.

      • Linder

        Id rather live next to this guy then you two any day. You are both off the wall extremists!

    • Rugbyball

      @Rob E.
      It’s irrelevant what you have to say. The man is within the letter of the ordinance. He can do as he pleases, and that maybe to not please you. :-)

      As far as symbols go, do you hang anything outdoors for Halloween, maybe a skeleton or Witch? In to terrorizing little children then are we?
      I know you’re not, I hope not anyway, but blanket saying practicing Christians, and in your comment you specifically targeted Catholics, are pedophiles or rapists is like saying all Irish are illiterate drunks or all Germans are power mad hate mongers or all Jews are wealthy bigots. That’s not true and nor is your statement about practicing Christians or Catholics.

      Have a nice day…

      • NorthernSnowBird

        Thank you, Rugbyball. Some people can’t the trees for the arbors. Good on ya!

    • Ann Marie Kellett

      My neighbor flew a Spanish flag during the World Cup, should I have complained? Were they trying to start their own country? No one is trying to stick it to anyone, it is the owners property and if you don’t like the cross don’t look at it.

  • Linder

    I dont see any problem with the cross. His yard is very well kept. People put all kinds of statues, vases, pagodas, pergolas, benches, swings, whirlygigs, you name it. A neighbor of mine put up a much thicker (maybe 8X8x8 ) cross approx 8 foot high and puts a lavendar silk drape on it for Easter. Other times he puts flowers and a grapevine wreath. It is very close to the road. No one objects. Actually, think the one in the article is nicer.

    That cross is not an eye sore or distracting. Stop trying to pull rank or tell people how they should act, think or feel. Save it for the big stuff, like hoarders that dont mow and dont do upkeep with repairs, or with vicious barking dogs night and day. Time for everyone to grow up..

    • Unprejudiced

      You’re quite reasonable. People put giant, brightly-lit Santas, sleighs, and reindeer on the roof, in the yard, and no one complains. I’ve seen 6 foot high bunnies at Easter and badly-done, equally large ghosts and vampires for Hallowe’en. Frankly, whirly-gigs, gnomes, and large plastic geese dressed as Mother Goose are uglier! :-)

  • Tim

    It time to god back in our schools and our lives I’m putting a cross in my yard everyone should do this.

    • NorthernSnowBird

      Mmmm Mmmmm! Your English grammar and spelling defy description. Thanks for showing everyone how they ShoULDN’T post.
      (I’ll bet you have to watch English movies with English sub-titles also??)

  • Linda

    I vote we start a Cause to put God back in our schools Country wide. All this stupidity started when prayer and respect was taken out of schools, even self respect seems to be lacking in our youngsters

    • hereandnow

      Which god?






      While the non-indigenous people of the U.S. may have been a predominately christian at one time, we have never been a christian nation.

      Now, there is more diversity of faith than ever, and 220+ years of Constitutional law makes clear that no one religious tradition shall be endorsed or given preference over any other.

      Not only is you desire to bring religion into the public schools impractical, it’s unAmerican.

      • jim

        theres no atheists on a foxhole

      • jim

        sorry,I meant in

      • hereandnow

        Sorry, “your” desire.

      • jim

        its not un-american. Why don’t they teach all religions? Isn’t that what freedom OF religion means

      • Nelson

        In God we trust is written on the dollar bill and has been there for nearly a century if not more.

        I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all… any one remember reciting this in school??? Fools.

    • NorthernSnowBird

      Not so, Linda. That kind of propaganda is what got this whole Christian witch-hunting going in the first place. Do what you want within your home, business, or church but don’t feed the trolls outside of your domain, okay? Peace/Blessings on ya!

  • j.j.

    I think the yard looks very nice, and the cross is a nice touch. Everybody should just take a hike.

  • Hungry Lion

    The thing on the front of your face is very distracting. God forbid if you are picking it and you are distracted to the point of running over the cross in the front of a yard causing damage to the town water and sewage system which in turn forced the whole town to boil their water with depleted the natural gas supply to the point the people were not able to cook their food and everyone died. So there. You see that people who make these crazy laws should never eat their buggers.

    • Nelson

      LMAO… thats why you’re hungry huh??? lol. j/k

    • NorthernSnowBird

      LOLOL. I second that motion. Probably the best post of the day. Peace to you, Hungry Lion!

  • Nick

    How is that thin cross going to block someone’s view of the street? And it’s on his PRIVATE property.

    On a separate note: more than one Nick here.

    • hereandnow

      It’s not that it might block a driver’s view of the street, it’s that it might distract a driver’s attention from the street. Hence the (seemingly reasonable) requirement that any such decoration be a set distance back from the street.

      • Unprejudiced

        You haven’t driven through Brooklyn at any time, have you? Only a narrow sidewalk separates the brownstones from the traffic! And the residents gaily decorate their houses to the limit for any and every holiday! Hallowe’en, Easter, Christmas, Hanukkah, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, etc., all produce VERY LARGE (usually 6 foot), frequently brightly-lit decorations. One Frosty the Snowman was up until June! :-) If THOSE don’t distract drivers, what will?

  • D

    It is the driver’s responsibility to watch the road, and not pay attention to distractions. Unless there is a risk that cross will get up and run out into the street in front of the driver, the driver should ignore it.. and held accountable for not paying attention.

    Hint – that goes for ALL RUBBERNECKERS!!!

    • ejones

      I think an ordinance that places reasonable restrictions on the placement of objects that may be distracting to drivers is not an unreasonable intrusion.

      That said, while demonstrating a certain insecurity of faith, if his cross is in compliance with the ordinance, he should be allowed to keep it there.

      BTW, something missing from the article is that while the town says the new cross may be distracting to drivers, the article does not say whether the town is attempting to make him move or remove it.

  • Liz

    It’s part of a garden display. Does this mean that some need to remove their hideous statues and ornamental shrubbery since those are distracting as well? What’s the real message being sent here? Let him keep his cross!

  • Wig Wam Willie

    Basically, he did it just to violate the town law.

    • jim

      he’s observing the law he moved to the required 10 feet

  • sheky17g

    I live in LIvingston, and have never seen this. It must be a huge problem.

    Boo to the Township that wont let people express their religious freedoms. They also wont let me put a fence around my yard without a variance. Boo!

    But likewise boo to this guy. Thanks for filing a legal action that will require tax payer money to fight. Yay all of our taxes go up! Oh and BTW, all the people that drive down my 25mph street at 50 would seem like a better place to focus the townships attentions. Thanks jerks!

  • Freedom for all

    another example of American’s stupidity. Let the poor guy have his cross in his property.

    • Wig Wam Willie

      In other words,laws don’t count and shouldn’t exist.

      • It's MY yard

        It doesn’t violate the law. Has to be within 10 feet AND be designed to attract attention. I wonder how strictly this law is enforced on Halloween when people place endless trinkets in their yards…

      • BFb

        Not stupid ones…. Got the point

  • Anthony; Cedar Grove, NJ

    Shame on the town, if this was an American flag would it be okay, I am sure. I pass my church and they have a cross. So why does a home owner that pays taxes not have the right to display a cross….give it up Livingston, shame on you!

    • Wig Wam Willie

      An oversized cross is normal in front of a church. It’s NOT normal in front of a house, and that’s what makes it a deliberate distraction.

      • BF

        A cross on a church is meant to distract you for the hustle and bustle of life so you think about God….. Crash #$**@(#)@(

      • Rugbyball

        @Wig Wam Willie
        Based on the town ordinance deliberate distracting items are not allowed within 10 feet of a right of way, he moved it beyond the 10 feet mark. It is now legal.
        Unless the Town amends the existing ordnance or enacts a new one he is within the law, that’s the end of it.

  • iggy

    i’m sure EVERYBODY drives down his block just to see the cross and make pilgrimage to it.

  • dave game

    I am the communist CEO of CBS Miami. Not only do we believe it is illegal to put a cross up, we also believe it illegal to put an American flag up. We welcome all to Miami to take part of the new Marxist Revolution happening here. VIVA LE REVOLUCION.

    • what?

      non sense. You are really ignorant.

    • NorthernSnowBird

      Another typical day on the blog… Ungh! LOLOL.

  • diver

    I think he burried his mother in law 6 feet below the cross.

  • steffi

    I guess if it was a mosgue it would be OK. Once again, Christians coming under fire

    • IzLiterate

      what am be a mosgue?

  • Herbie Original Situation Raskin

    As long as it’s not a re-elect Obama sign on his front lawn – God bless him!!!

    • jim


    • Rugbyball

      @Herbie Original Situation Raskin
      I bet anything there is an exclusion in the ordinance that excludes political placards. The Town Board is not going to write a rule that would hurt them, they only write the rules, not live by them… :-)

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