PUBLISHED: 22:49 EST, 11 May 2012 | UPDATED: 23:14 EST, 11 May 2012
Officials in rural Branson, Missouri, have approved the construction of a 200-foot walk-through cross in the hope that it will rival American icons like the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Developer Kerry Brown said the ‘God-given vision’ of the Branson Cross came to his father, Dean, about 20 years ago.
At the time, Dean Brown, a retired president of a life insurance company, purchased a property atop Bear Mountain near the intersections of U.S. highways 160 and 65 – a country music mecca.
Iconic: Developer Kerry Brown hopes his cross will rival such monuments as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge (left) and St. Louis’ Gateway Arch (right)
‘It started as a vision with a seven-foot-tall cross just so people would have a place to go and meditate with the Lord,’ Brown said.
‘As time went on, additional portions of the vision came to him and ultimately it was to build the largest cross that anyone has ever seen.’
Fox News reports that when it is completed in 2013, the monumental cross will feature a 100-foot crossbeam and twin elevators to the 17-story-tall horizontal bar, offering visitors a bird’s eye view of the surrounding Ozark Mountains.
According to the developer, it will be a family-friendly venue with free admission.
The Branson Cross, however, will not be the world’s tallest free-standing cross. That honor belongs to The Great Cross in Saint Augustine, Florida, which stands at just over 260 feet.
The $5million project is being funded with donations. According to a website associated with the cross-building effort, some $410,000 has been raised so far. Much of the expense will go to preparing the mountaintop site.
‘Getting construction materials up the hill is going to need a 45-degree road to get to the top,’ Brown said.
After receiving zoning approval from the Taney County Planning and Zoning Commission four years ago, Brown said fundraising for the project began in earnest in December of 2011.
Local pastor Larry Green has issued a plea to the Ozarks’ churchgoers, asking them to donate at least $1 to the project, according to KY3.
Rivals: Among the world’s largest crosses is the Great Cross (left) in St. Augustine, Florida, and the Cross at the Crossroads (right) in Effingham, Illinois
Brown, a former attorney, is hoping that the cross will become an international tourist destination in line with America’s greatest monuments thanks to the estimated eight million people who travel in and out of Branson every year.
‘I know Saint Louis has the Gateway Arch and San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge, and those are all fantastic monuments, but they’re all secular monuments,’ he said.
‘This will be the first monument to the spirit of man. It’s absolutely in the right place at the right time and it’s going to have ten times the spirituality as any one of those monuments.’
Elsewhere in the nation, public displays of Christianity have been challenged amid claims that they violate the First Amendment freedom of religion clause.
Last month, a federal judge approved a land swap that may end an 11-year legal battle over the right to display a cross honoring veterans of foreign wars in the Mojave Desert in California.
U.S. District Judge Robert Timlin on April 23 signed an order allowing the so-called Mojave Cross to return to Sunrise Rock. The National Park Service, under terms of the settlement, will transfer the title for the one-acre parcel in exchange for five acres of donated land.
The cross was erected in 1934 as a tribute to World War I veterans. In 2001, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit alleging that religious symbols should not be displayed on public land.