Atheist Group Asks For Removal Of Veterans Monument Adorned With Cross
By Mike Perleberg
(Union County, Ind.) – A battle of religious freedom and separation of church and state is revolving around a woodcarving recently placed at the Whitewater Memorial State Park along Whitewater Lake in Union County.
State leaders are rallying in defense of the new feature at the park, established in 1949 to honor World War II veterans. The sculpture shows a bald eagle perched above a soldier on the right, an Indiana state flag on the left, and a cross at the base in the center. It is inscribed with “All gave some. Some gave all.”
The cross in particular has drawn the ire of the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation. FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent the letter to Cameron Clark, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, on behalf of a local complainant who objects to putting religious objects on state-owned property.
“We have no objection to veterans’ memorials,” Markert wrote in the letter dated August 20. “Our objection is to the message of endorsement of Christianity over other religions and religion over nonreligion. Additionally, the Christian-only memorial will send a message that the government only cares about the deaths of Christian soldiers, not Jewish, other non-Christian, and nonreligious soldiers.”
A quarter of American military personnel identify themselves as agnostic or have no religious preference, Markert claimed by citing a June 2010 study by an atheist organization.
The foundation asks that the sculpture either be removed or the cross removed or replaced with a secular symbol to honor all veterans. A written response from Clark was also requested.
On Tuesday, Clark and Indiana Governor Mike Pence both voiced support of keeping the carving in place.
“The freedom of religion does not require freedom from religion. The Constitutions of our state and nation more than allow the placement of this Hoosier artist’s sculpture on public land. So long as I am Governor, I will defend the right of Hoosiers to display this sculpture in Whitewater Memorial State Park as a lasting tribute to the service and sacrifice of all who have worn the uniform of the United States,” Pence said.
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The governor’s office says the sculpture was donated by the local community at no taxpayer expense. It had been created at the Liberty Festival a couple months earlier.
State Representative Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) said in a statement that he applauds the governor.
“This was a great community project and a wonderful way to recognize all the sacrifices made by our veterans, the fallen heroes of this great country,” McMillin said. “This park was dedicated in 1949 to the veterans of World War II, and this statue is an extension of that dedication. It is important that we remember the sacrifices made by those who paid the ultimate price for our country, and this memorial, as it stands, is our community’s way of never forgetting the price they paid.”
The politicians are not the only ones voicing their support for leaving the woodcarving in place. A Facebook group titled “Keep the Cross on the Carving at Whitewater Memorial State Park” has more than 1,100 members as of Wednesday.
The Whitewater Memorial State Park rumpus isn’t the first time the Freedom from Religion Foundation has lodged a complaint in the Brookville area. In 2011 and again this past March, the organization has written letters to Franklin County Commissioners demanding that a Nativity scene at the Franklin County Courthouse around Christmastime either be removed from public property or altered to include secular holiday decorations.
The very reason for the formation of this country, and the reason so many have died to preserve it is the freedom for all to choose their faith... or to chose NO faith. NOWHERE does the US Constitution guarantee freedom FROM religion.
Personally, I think that these arguments by atheists belittle and diminish the sacrifices made by ALL of our military personnel who have died in all the wars since the beginning of this country...NO MATTER their religion...or lack thereof.
My suggestion to the atheists...prepare and contribute your own memorial images that do not depict a religious icon. My guess is that your memorial would be received and accepted by all the religious people in the country, showing they have much more tolerance of you than you do of them!!
God (or whatever or whomever) bless and have mercy on the USA and ALL its soldiers!!
Focus on something important. What a waste of time. That is a beautiful statue and if you don't like it don't look at it for pete sake. I am on the fence about religion due to catholic priests. I feel like no one should try to push their beliefs on anyone and let alone make a spectacle out it which In turn gives the impression of cult like activities.
This makes atheists, such as myself, look bad. This is not an issue to become militant over in the least, its a waste of time and disrespectful to those who gave their lives who may have been or who happen to be Christians serving today. What a silly and arbitrary thing for these idiots to become upset over. "If you don't believe in freedom of speech for those you despise, then you really don't believe in it." This will just cause knee jerk reactions.
I am not a religious person and don't understand the big deal. I guess we should go around taking every cross we see down because we don't agree in what it stands for...If we did that what exactly have we accomplished? People need to find a common ground and stop looking for things to get offended about. Look at the statue for what it is. A symbol to remind us of those, all of those, people who gave there all to fight for our country and our freedom. They would be rolling in their graves if they saw the way we abuse our freedom.
I think the atheist should pretend the cross doesn't exist, just like they pretend a god doesn't exist. This item was donated by the community, get over it.
I couldn't agree more. This is a really beautiful piece of work and anyone who doesn't care to admire it should just turn the other way and get the f''''' over i!!