It started as a simple gesture.

But it could have implications far beyond the quiet New Jersey street where Patrick Racaniello affixed a wooden cross on a tree in his front yard.

Livingston Township officials say Racaniello’s display, which he intended as a celebration of Lent, violated an ordinance that generally prohibits postings on a structure, including a tree, “calculated to attract the attention of the public.”

Advised of the ordinance, Racaniello removed the cross. But he then built a second, much larger cross that he planted on his property just within the township’s 10-foot right of way. Racaniello, again facing fines, took down that cross, too.

He also contacted the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, a coalition of conservative Christian lawyers. The alliance told the township it may take the matter to court if officials don’t allow Racaniello to put the cross wherever he wants on his property.

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