In the covenant-happy city of Columbia, where a Thunder Hill resident was forced by his community association to repaint his front door aless-offensive color than purple, I found the display in front of the Covenant Baptist Church near Cedar Acres numbing.

"Abortion Kills Over 100 Babies A Day In Maryland. Covenant Cares!" read the vivid red message painted on two 8-foot white crosses in the church's frontyard.

One faced Cedar Lane and the other stood perpendicular to the first, giving Harper's Choice and Hickory Ridge commuters driving south from the hospital another chance to witness the "gloom with a view."

What made the scene even more unsettling were the 100-some minicrosses representing graves, which were posted in the grass surrounding the larger crosses.

Could this really have happened in Columbia, where even the telephone wires run underground so not to ruin the beauty of the landscape?

You bet.

But even though the display was dismantled about two weeks ago, the Rev. Tom Drake, Covenant's associate pastor, said the signs and crosses will return three more times before winter for periods of about 30 days each.

Members of TLC (Tiny Little Crosses), an anti-abortion ministry project at the church, have said they will add more crosses to the display at least until January, when the Southern Baptist Convention celebrates "Sanctity of Life Sunday."

Although smack in the middle of Columbia, the communities of Cedar Acres and Cedar Woods are considered outparcels, and therefore, not owned by the Howard Research and Development Corp. nor subject to HRD's strict property covenants.

When furious neighbors turned to the county for removal of the signs, they discovered that permits are not required for temporary signs and the display was not breaking any county ordinances.

Some might argue that Covenant Baptist Church is simply sticking to its convictions by making people think about a controversial subject while not breaking any rules or regulations.

Opponents think the church is taking advantage of the situation and displaying their beliefs in a forum impossible for many to avoid.

Regardless of my personal views on abortion, I think the display is out of place and just plain tacky.

I live in Hickory Ridge. Every time I drive by the church, heading for Owen Brown Road and U.S. 29, I can't help but feel forced to be part of something I find disturbing.

It's not as easy as zapping to another channel on the TV when "Married . . . With Children" comes on, or not allowing your children to purchase a 2 Live Crew compact disc.

And although the temporary display is temporarily gone, it will be back soon.

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