Secret Service agents protecting President Bush along the inaugural-parade route Jan. 20 will be on the lookout not only for guns and explosives but also for coffins and crosses.
The ban on crosses is drawing criticism from the director of the Christian Defense Coalition, which has carried large wooden crosses in pro-life demonstrations.
"It is blatantly unconstitutional," the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney said Monday. "For them to say that a cross could be used as a weapon is even more offensive than just listing the cross itself as a prohibited item."
Mahoney's group, based in Washington, D.C., rallied last year in support of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who defied a federal order to move a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building. An ethics panel removed Moore from the bench.
Secret Service spokesman Tom Mazur denied that the agency is trampling on religious freedom or the cross in its preparations for the inauguration.
"The Secret Service has requested to ban structures that could conceal a weapon or could be used as a weapon themselves," he said. "Individuals attending the parade are free to display the symbol of the cross on signs or images or banners, or use the symbol in any other way that does not conflict with regulations governing prohibited materials."
The Secret Service included crosses on a list of banned items in a Dec. 17 order to the National Park Service. Other prohibited items include firearms, explosives, aerosols, bicycles, coolers, backpacks and laser pointers.
Coffins and papier-mache puppets are banned because explosives could be placed inside. Signs and placards can be made only of paper, cardboard or cloth and be no more than 3 feet wide, 20 feet long and a quarter-inch thick.
Mahoney said the coalition plans to demonstrate along the route to encourage Bush to nominate pro-life justices to the Supreme Court.
"I suppose there is some irony in that President Bush is a man of deep faith and conviction, but the Secret Service would have prohibited this no matter who was president," Mahoney said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops said she was unaware of the cross prohibition.
Joe Conn, a spokesman in Washington for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said: "The Secret Service may be going out of its way to err on the side of strict security. The Christian Defense Coalition is an expert at publicity stunts, and this has a ring to it."
Staff Writer Maria Recio in Washington Contributed to This Report.