The family of a Colorado preacher’s wife is still fuming after the director of the city-owned cemetery refused to engrave her final resting place with the name ‘Jesus’ because it might offend people. The city eventually reversed course under public pressure.
“We were in disbelief,” said Stacy Adams, the daughter-in-law of Linda Baker. “Who tries to censor Jesus from a cemetery?”
Linda Baker lost her battle with cancer last week. She was the wife of Mark Baker, the pastor of Harvest Baptist Church in Ovid.
Adams said her mother-in-law was passionate about her Christian faith and her family. Her final wish was to have her cemetery marker engraved with the ichthys, a symbol of early Christianity. She also wanted the word ‘Jesus’ written inside the fish.
“At first they told us it wouldn’t fit,” Adams told me. “But after we kept pushing them the cemetery director told us that it might offend somebody. They weren’t going to allow it.”
The family was devastated and asked the cemetery director to reconsider. He refused.
“He said, ‘What if somebody wanted to put a swastika?” she recounted. “My reply was, so what if they do? It’s not my business how they want to be remembered.”
The family then took their concerns to the Sterling city manager – but once again they were rebuffed.
“He refused to work with us,” she said. “He said he would have to take it to the city attorney. They were being difficult.”
She said city officials kept telling them that people would be offended by the name of Christ.
“We weren’t asking for a six-foot neon sign,” she said. “We did not want to put a cross on everyone’s tombstone. It’s a six-inch fish with the name ‘Jesus ‘ on it.”
So the family decided to post their plight on Facebook – and that’s when the city had a change of heart.
“We gave them fair warning,” she said. “We gave them time to do the right thing.”
Sterling City Manager Joe Kiolbasa told 9news.com they would no longer censor religious references on headstones and cemetery markers. He said the cemetery manager made a mistake.
“This gentleman thought it may have been objectionable to someone because of the Christian connotation,” Kiolbasa told the television station. “It will be allowed in the future.”
Adams tells me the family was incredibly distraught and disturbed by the incident.
“As an American and as a Christian, we have this thing called freedom of speech, freedom of expression,” she said. “We weren’t trying to stop anybody from putting anything up. We just wanted the same freedom others have.”
And the cemetery is filled with tombstones that have Bible verses and angels and other religious symbols.
Mrs. Baker’s marker should be finished in the coming days as her family continues the grieving process. But Adams can’t help but wonder who “people are so fearful of one name that they would go to such lengths to try and eliminate it.”
“If it can happen in a small country town like this, it makes you wonder what’s happening in other parts of the nation,” she said.
And I’d like to know who – specifically – would be offended by the name ‘Jesus’ on the grave marker of a pastor’s wife? What kind of malicious, godless, slop-sucking heathen would object to a dying woman’s last wishes?
Stacy Adams raises a valid question.
It’s outrageous that a grieving American family had to fight and cajole a city government to allow them to engage in their Constitutional rights.
The city of Sterling, Colo. owes the family of Linda Baker a sincere apology – and it should probably be delivered from the pulpit of Pastor Baker’s church.
As for the cemetery manager—comparing the name of Jesus to a swastika? Really, sir? My only wish is that on Judgment Day Mrs. Baker is standing at the Pearly Gates watching you explain yourself to Saint Peter.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values." Follow Todd on Twitter@ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.