The memorial features a silhouette of a soldier holding a gun and kneeling at the foot of a cross.
It was installed a few months ago alongside Freedom Rock at Young’s Park in the small town of Knoxville, Iowa.
“It was clear to us it was a memorial to fallen veterans,” Mayor Brian Hatch told me. But it wasn’t clear to everyone.
About a month ago a citizen filed an anonymous complaint -- arguing that the memorial was promoting Christianity and therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Mayor Hatch told me the city council ignored the complaint.
“We didn’t take any action because it (the memorial) did not have any religious ties to us at all,” he said. “I only see it as a memorial to the veterans and it shocked me that someone could see it otherwise.”
Instead of letting bygones be bygones, the offended citizen contacted Americans United for Separation of Church and State – a group that relishes in bullying towns across the nation. On Tuesday their attorney fired off a letter to the town.
“Please remove the Latin cross from government property,” the letter demanded.
Americans United said the Constitution prohibits government bodies from promoting religion on public land and they argued that the Latin cross is the “preeminent symbol of Christianity.”
They suggested that the inclusion of the cross excludes service members of other faith groups.
“Another court prohibited a county government from displaying a war memorial featuring crosses and the Star of David, because this design ‘gave the impression that only Christians and Jews are being honored,’” Americans United wrote in their letter.
Mayor Hatch told me the council will meet next month to decide what course of action to take. Meanwhile, the citizens of Knoxville are launching a campaign to save the memorial.
“This political correctness stuff is getting way out of hand,” resident Doug Goff told me. “When we are bending to the will of one person in the town -- you know something is wrong there.”
Goff is a lifelong resident of Knoxville. He’s also a Navy veteran. And he’s helping to spearhead an August 30t rally to defend the cross.
“This is a memorial for our veterans,” he said -- wondering if Americans United has a problem with the crosses in Arlington National Cemetery.
“The cross is white because the headstones in Arlington are white,” he said. “Would you take that cross down, too?”
Americans United has given the town 30 days to respond to their demand. If they refuse to comply, don’t be surprised if the town of Knoxville gets hauled into court.
Meanwhile, I think Americans United should answer Mr. Goff’s question. Will they demand that Arlington Cemetery remove their crosses?
It’s doubtful Americans United would pull a stunt like that. I think they just like to bully small towns in the Heartland.