Anti-Religion Group Fights to Remove Eagle Scout Veterans Memorial: “Jesus Christ and the American Soldier”
The city of Monument, Colorado, apparently won’t be intimidated by anti-religious activists who say a veterans memorial in a public cemetery violates the First Amendment because it contains a Christian message.
The memorial was a project of Eagle Scout Michael Carlson, 16, and was presented to the city at a gift giving ceremony last October. Carlson designed the memorial and raised some $ 46,000 in private donations to make the project a reality, according to The Christian Post.
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At the ceremony on October 3, Monument Mayor Don Wilson congratulated the young Eagle Scout on his project.
“Michael saw that the veterans were under-represented here. He didn’t go to the government and say ‘Fix this.’ He decided to fix it himself and asked the government to help him.… His leadership and patriotism have made our community better, ”Wilson said.
The City of Monument helped the project by removing the grass around the pole and digging the land for the memorial, according to The Tribune.
The memorial includes a plaque that reads, “Only two determining forces ever proposed to die for you, Jesus Christ and the American soldier.” One died for your soul, the other died for your freedom. We honor those who made freedom a reality. “
These words, apparently, are fighting words to the Military Foundation for Religious Freedom (MRFF), which argued in a letter to the city that the memorial was a violation of the separation of church and state. , and demanded that it be altered or removed from the public cemetery or the town would be subject to federal prosecution. The MRFF also took issue with the use of the US military wing’s logos on the monument, which it said gives the impression that the memorial’s message is endorsed by the government.
In response, the city withheld legal representation from the First Liberty Institute who sent a letter to the MRFF stating that the city would not be removing the memorial. The letter says the memorial is “privately designed, maintained and located on private burial grounds in the monument cemetery.” Further, the letter from First Liberty asks the MRFF to apologize to Michael Carlson and his family for their derogatory rhetoric in opposing the monument.
“Instead of acknowledging his honorable intention,” the letter from First Liberty read, “you issued a public press release referring to his monument as a ‘miserable and unconstitutional garbage can fire’ and a ‘ploy / ploy unconstitutional to get the US military to endorse and validate the fundamentalist Christian nationalist message of supremacy, domination, exclusivity and exception of this memorial. Your attack on a minor who simply intended to honor our veterans is deeply disrespectful to everyone involved. “
The MRFF responded that it had not attacked Carlson and that no apology would be offered. He also said the plots on which the monument stands were only purchased privately after the group’s complaint.
It is not yet clear whether this private ownership of the cemetery plots where the memorial is located will be sufficient to avoid a prosecution by the MRFF. Or whether an Eagle Scout’s effort to honor the sacrifice of U.S. Army veterans will end up being upheld or dismissed in federal court.