It took volunteers with St. Stephen Catholic Church's Respect Life Ministry hours to set up wooden crosses on the church property to remember the lives lost since the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion.
But it took vandals only moments to destroy the display.
Some time during the late-night hours of Jan. 29-30, vandals demolished the display of white crosses in front of the church in Valrico, at 5049 Bell Shoals Road, either breaking the crosses or tossing them into a nearby retention pond on the church propery.
Ministry leader Jeanne Lewis said the volunteers, who have been displaying the crosses annually, were surprised by the level of destruction.
She said she feels it's not only a violation of the ministry's freedom of religion and speech but also goes against their right to mount a peaceful protest highlighting the physical, emotional and spiritual effects of abortion.
Lewis said the purpose of her ministry isn't to condemn those who have had abortions but to raise awareness of the numbers of abortions occurring and to reach out to those touched by abortion and help them find God's forgiveness and healing.
"The statistics show that, at the current rate, more than a third of American women will have an abortion . . . " Lewis said. "Extremely sad, but true."