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Wisconsin group wants Celtic cross removed

MOORHEAD, Minn. (AP) — A Wisconsin group that works for the separation of religion and government wants a Celtic cross removed from the grounds of the Heritage Hjemkomst Center.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, of Madison, Wis., requested removal of the cross in a letter sent to the city-owned center and to Moorhead City Hall on Sept. 18.

The center is a museum that works to preserve the heritage of the Red River Valley region. Museum officials agreed last year to remove a plaque that accompanies the cross after Moorhead resident Chuck Wallace objected to the religious content of the plaque's text.

At the time, Wallace and officials from the city and museum agreed to leave the cross but remove the marker, which commemorates Norway's conversion to Christianity and reads in part, "Odin fought — Christ won." Odin is the chief god of the Norse religion.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, said the cross needs to go, too, and her group would sue to make sure it's removed.

"There's no question that there is religious purpose and message in the cross," she said.

Dean Sather, executive director of the nonprofit agency that cares for the center's artifacts, said the cross does not promote religion. The cross, donated five years ago by retired Rev. Ariel Molldrem and his late wife, is a replica of one planted by Celtic missionaries in Norway in 995 A.D.