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Plan prompts monumental protest

Officials now say no immediate plans to remove Ten Commandments

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Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014 10:00 am

SANDPOINT — The Ten Commandments monument isn’t going anywhere for now, but that didn’t stop hundreds from filling Farmin Park Thursday to protest its possible removal.

The melody of “Amazing Grace” filled the park as attendees bustled around the monument, holding signs and signing a petition to preserve its location. Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon’s announcement that the monument wouldn’t be moved Thursday didn’t seem to impact turnout for a planned 2 p.m. gathering, which easily swelled to 300-500 people at its peak.

“I don’t like this at all,” attendee Gladys Larson said. “There’s no way someone can come into our town and dictate what goes on here.”

Controversy began Wednesday evening when word rapidly spread through social media and phone calls that the monument would be moved Thursday. While city officials didn’t confirm the removal, they did say they were investigating alternative locations for the monument. These investigations began after the city received a letter in November from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the largest national advocate for non-theists.  

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“Ten Commandments displays continue to cause distress and divisiveness and continue to be challenged around the country,” the letter reads. “The best approach is to remedy the liability by moving the monument now.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Patrick Elliott said the organization sent the letter following around three or four complaints since 2010 from both residents and out-of-towners. It’s rare for the nonprofit to receive multiple reports of an alleged grievance in a small town, he added.

“(The foundation’s) letter addresses this primarily as a matter of policy rather than as a legal issue,” he said.

Even so, the monument’s location still opens the city to the potential for costly litigation, City Attorney Scot Campbell said.

“I would be equally criticized if we received the attached warning letter and ignored it and were later sued to remove the monument, potentially costing the city a lot of money to defend the lawsuit,” he added.

Parks and Recreation Director Kim Woodruff said the city has no plans to move the monument. The controversy added up to a long day for him as he explained the situation to residents calling his department.

“People were generally very good to deal with,” he said.

According to a city press release, Mayor Carrie Logan asked Woodruff to work with the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, which donated the monument to the city in 1972, in discussing alternative locations for the monument. This is purely to eliminate the city’s liability and is not a slight to religious residents, city officials said.

“No disrespect is meant to the faith community,” a press release reads. “Rather the decision was a business one to protect the financial interests of the city in these litigious times.”

The controversy came as a surprise to many council members. Councilman Bob Camp said he hadn’t heard anything about it until he caught the rapidly-spreading word Wednesday night following a city meeting.

“I got two phone calls (that night), and now, I’ve basically been answering the phone all day today,” he said.

City officials have added a public hearing to the City Council agenda set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sandpoint City Hall to gather public opinion regarding the monument. The Eagles will also hold a meeting 7 p.m. Thursday to discuss members’ thoughts on the issue.

“My guess right now is that most everyone would want to leave it where it is,” Eagles vice president Dave Dawson said.  

In addition, local conservative organization the Friends of Idaho have taken up the banner for the monument. They plan to discuss the issue at a meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, March 21 at Sandpoint Community Hall.

“Friends of Idaho recognizes that the threat of litigation is the reason for the city’s action,” group member Pam Stout said. “However, we must ask that they rethink their decision.”

People have taken issue with the monument’s placement in the past, according to former councilwoman and clerk Helen Newton. She said that during her time as clerk, visitors would sometimes wonder if it represented a violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. However, no one ever filled out an official complaint form, much less filed a tort claim.

In a somewhat ironic twist, the public uproar centers around a monument many people said they didn’t know existed in Sandpoint. It’s unlikely it will escape notice again as the issue develops over the coming weeks.

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36 comments:

  • Cripto posted at 9:41 am on Thu, Mar 20, 2014.

    Cripto Posts: 3165

    Sherlock; we agree. [smile]

     
  • C posted at 6:25 am on Thu, Mar 20, 2014.

    C Posts: 257

    Supposedly, believing in a higher power gives us humility. Allows us to come together as children of a common god. Sadly, it rarely works that way. Arrogance is human trait that infiltrates its way into all that we do, and sadly, especially into religion.

     
  • C posted at 6:20 am on Thu, Mar 20, 2014.

    C Posts: 257

    How do you define religion? Christianity is a religion that is admittedly divided into many, many other religions/denominations, which is really amazing when thinking that it started about 2000 yrs ago with one set of beliefs. Such it is with humanity. We seem to have to put our own spin on it, then claim that our belief is from God and all others are wrong or at least misguided. I think there is a common morality, and that is what we need to cling to when we consider interactions with other people. We need to find first where we agree.

    Just a curious note here... My grandparents (who were missionaries/ministers) would look at a person and see something good, even a total stranger (what a pretty dress, you have such a nice smile...). I find it too easy when people watching to look with a critical eye. Why do I find it so hard to see beauty in people? That is what I am working on in myself. When I people watch what can I see in each person that is complimentary. Try it. Maybe it is easy for others, but I find it a bit challenging--a healthy challenge.

     
  • L Wallace posted at 9:42 pm on Tue, Mar 18, 2014.

    L Wallace Posts: 1365

    Amp, amp, amp? What is with that? Those words were not mine.

     
  • L Wallace posted at 9:40 pm on Tue, Mar 18, 2014.

    L Wallace Posts: 1365

    @ O.Sandpointman

    Yes, accounted righteous, not made righteous. Just like the prodigal son (Luke 15) had a robe given to him, it covered him & his condition. We are not righteous in ourselves, only by being "IN Christ". "And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." Phil 3:9

    The heart of the Old Testament priesthood was the 10 Commandments and they were called the "covenant" (Ex. 34:28 & Duet. 9:9 & 10) plus they were in the Most Holy Place, inside the Ark, just Below the Mercy Seat. That whole sacrificial system was a sandbox illustration of how sin was transferred to the animal blood and transferred to the sanctuary by sprinkling. Of course there was no more need for it when the blood of the true Lamb took away the sin of the world with far better than animal blood.
    I am not sure what you mean in your last statement. I wonder just how the population would like a statue of Mohammed, Buda, Jim Jones, or how about one for the Arian Nations?

    There are churches in town that could have the 10 Cs on their lawn. Presbyterian or Methodist come to mind.

     
  • Original Sandpointman posted at 10:46 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    Original Sandpointman Posts: 92

    @L Wallace

    "1. "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly, and sinners, for murderers,......" 1 Timothy 1:9 In Christ, believers are righteous."

    -believers are not "righteous", believers are inputed with gods righteousness, entering us in the book of life.-

    "4. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth". Rom 10:1-13"

    -for christ was the end of the law (old testament lavitical priesthood)-

    Interesting thing about religion and public property. As Christians we think that religion, unfortunately Christianity is not a religion but mistaken for one, needs to be posted in public places. I disagree with this on the basis that if you choose to appease one school of thought regarding spirituality, you have to choose to appease them all. I don't believe anyone really wants that.

     
  • leechstomper posted at 3:45 pm on Sun, Mar 16, 2014.

    leechstomper Posts: 1437

    I guess that Ten Commandments, Code of Hammurabi, God and lying about your parents are profane if strung together just right.

     
  • leechstomper posted at 3:42 pm on Sun, Mar 16, 2014.

    leechstomper Posts: 1437

    The filters on this sight must be really messed up. It keeps kicking out posts saying they are profane when they are about as bland as a third grade primer.

     
  • bigdan posted at 1:36 pm on Sun, Mar 16, 2014.

    bigdan Posts: 2784

    Updated 6/27/2005 3:36:37 PM ET

    WASHINGTON — a sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government land, but drew the line on displays that promote religion, saying they violated the doctrine of separation of church and state.

    The high court said displays of the Ten Commandments — like their own courtroom frieze — are not inherently unconstitutional. But each exhibit demands scrutiny to determine whether it goes too far in amounting to a governmental promotion of religion, the court said in a case involving Kentucky courthouse exhibits.

    (To read in context goto: http://www.nbcnews.com/.../split-rulings-ten.../...)

    (2005) In Van Orden v. Perry,
    The Court considered a 40 – year - old granite Ten Commandments monument on the
    Texas Capitol grounds.

    One of 17 monuments on the broad
    Plaza. Reaching an opposite result, the Court
    decided that this display was constitutionally permissible. However, Justice Breyer, who cast the deciding
    vote in the case, characterized the display as "borderline" and found that it served "a mixed but primarily
    non-religious purpose."

    Significantly, as with the McCreary decision, a majority of the Justices indicated that displays in public schools likely will be unconstitutional. In other situations, a display or posting's location, history and context will be critical in determining its constitutionality. (to read in context goto: http://www.adl.org/.../religfreeres/TenCommands-docx.pdf)

     
  • bigdan posted at 1:26 pm on Sun, Mar 16, 2014.

    bigdan Posts: 2784

    Jason Bennell, former short time Sandpoint residence who has now returned to Iowa is taking credit for contacting the FFRF.

    The FFRF is based out of Wisconsin and has been defeated in a number of attempts to extort cities and towns like ours.

    They count on a fear of the city having to pay legal costs to defend a potential suit. There is already legal precedent that supports the placement of the monolith in a city park. The FFRF is just hoping we will blink.

     
  • capnbutch posted at 12:27 pm on Sun, Mar 16, 2014.

    capnbutch Posts: 138

    It is suspicious that the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims to be receiving these complaints. If there are sincere complaints it is reasonable to expect that we would hear about them in government meetings and in the newspaper. Can some casual foundation really cause heartache and disappointment with so little effort?

    I have never heard of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Is this a serious institution with roots in Idaho?

    Schools occasionally have students in political activism and nobody objects to that no matter how extreme. It seems that somebody is intent on herding us into abstruse ideas and we are foolish enough to wander where we are pushed.

     
  • L Wallace posted at 12:11 am on Sun, Mar 16, 2014.

    L Wallace Posts: 1365

    Christians should not have a problem with the removal of the 10 commandments because

    1. "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly, and sinners, for murderers,......" 1 Timothy 1:9 In Christ, believers are righteous.

    2. "Now we know, that whatever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty.., therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight:". Romans 3:19-23 & contxt. One must be lost before he/she can be "saved". One must see their guilt before their forgiveness has value.

    3. "For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:..." Romans 4:14 & contxt. The promise of righteousness by faith. One cannot inherit that which is worked for, it would be wages.

    4. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth". Rom 10:1-13

    5. What then is the purpose of the law? "Before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Therefore the law was our school-master to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith (belief & trust) is come we are no longer under a school-master". Galatians 3:23-25 & contxt.

    6. "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." Galatians 5:4 & 5

    7."For all the law is fulfilled in one word, thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself". Galatians 5:14

    8. It is the first or old covenant (Exodus 34:28) which "is ready to vanish away", "in that he saith a new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away". Hebrews 8:13 See your new covenant contract in Hebrews 8:7-13 Believe & trust it and it is true.


     
  • C posted at 10:47 pm on Sat, Mar 15, 2014.

    C Posts: 257

    Please do not be too quick to judge. A person does not have to be an atheist to argue separation of church and state. And while the Christian religion teaches some wonderful moral behavior, the history of Christian behavior contains some of the worst the most brutal and cruel behaviors of human history. I believe a bit of humility would go a long way in making Christians better people.

     
  • C posted at 10:38 pm on Sat, Mar 15, 2014.

    C Posts: 257

    Perhaps it would help you to reread my comment, perhaps not. Once again, for the hard of hearing, our country was founded on separating the church and state. The founders did not want religious zealots to control our government. As to how we enact the separation of church and state, that is for us to decide, though it should include people of all religions. No where in the founding documents does it say that the US is a Christian nation. (Btw, our national anthem was written long after the founding of the nation, and I am not sure when the "In God We Trust" was stamped on the money, but it was obviously not part of the founding documents.) And lastly, saying that a person has a God given right does not mean that is exclusive to Christianity. A lot of people believe in a god in a lot of different ways. I know most religions feel that they are the only true path. Maybe one of them is right, maybe not.

     
  • Lily posted at 10:13 pm on Sat, Mar 15, 2014.

    Lily Posts: 114

    Very well said... Thank you!

     
  • Original Sandpointman posted at 2:48 pm on Sat, Mar 15, 2014.

    Original Sandpointman Posts: 92

    It's called the Mosaic Law, it is the basis for our entire moral code & legal system. The crux of it is that Christianity is not a religion, it's a faith but I doubt many will understand that.

    We were NOT founded as a christian nation. We were founded as a nation whose people believed that their rights were derived from God and not King. We ARE a client nation to God but I doubt anyone will get that either.

     
  • ski2work posted at 12:48 pm on Sat, Mar 15, 2014.

    ski2work Posts: 622

    why the do you atheists come to a place that has traditional Christian values and feel, as a minority, you have the right to take away what we cherish? Go build your own towns, cities, government that has no moral guidance and leave us alone.

     
  • Praetorian posted at 12:10 pm on Sat, Mar 15, 2014.

    Praetorian Posts: 11

    Perhaps you need to understand that our country was founded under God. "In God we Trust" is its motto. We were founded as a Christian nation but with religious freedom, therefore it is a part of our heritage to have the commandments in public places. Yes you can have freedom without compromise to values. Yes religion is a business but what Christianity stands for is for goodness and kindness, do unto others as I do unto you, and has a solid moral base (the 10 commandments), that any fool of any religion can see.

    Try telling muslims in Saudi Arabia that its OK to post the 10 commandments next to mecca and see what response you get... its about local culture as well.

    Perhaps no one is making money on this issue but the lawyers if it goes to litigation for nothing more then having a reminder of a moral code that people should try to at least live their lives by for a better place in society. Things like, do not steal, do not murder, respect each other, you know, things that the liberal side of society does not have (ie: detroit comes to mind).

    I agree totally with separation of church and state 100%. No doubt. But remember this is a local area which is dominated by Christians, and odds are it will remain Christian for a very long time, with good values.

    In response to C below, our country again was not founded on being non-religious, where do you get your history from? If it was 'God' would be no where in any texts, not even our national anthem... on currency... etc.. get your facts straight. Broader context is you can have your freedom, and our country is way more accepting on religious freedom then others (middle east where you get executed for being Christian in some countries).

    The best part is people that do not even live near it are complaining according to the news above and below in the comments. Just plain wow...

     
  • Ruby Ridge posted at 11:35 am on Sat, Mar 15, 2014.

    Ruby Ridge Posts: 72

    Since religion is a business, you're not going to see any churches coming foward to pay the cost of defending this. It's not cost effective. Oh, they will rant from the pulpit, but when push comes to shove and they have to write a check, the only thing your will hear is silence. My guess people didn't bring their check book to this rally.

     
  • reddawn posted at 11:25 am on Sat, Mar 15, 2014.

    reddawn Posts: 1698

    It says officials are not removing this, calm down. This is not about Ds and Rs , yet we still have the bullies that think it is. Typical Rs.

     
  • C posted at 7:21 am on Sat, Mar 15, 2014.

    C Posts: 257

    Personally, I have no problem with religious quotations on public lands if they are in line with what we consider socially moral behavior. I am fine if the words come from the Bible, The Koran, Buddhism, Confucius, or any other belief system. However, as a country, we are determined to separate the church from the state. The Ten Commandments are a religious text. Perhaps the Christian churches can unite to buy the park from the city and then they can put up whatever religious symbols they want. We need to look at this not as a personal attack, but as a guideline for the future. Is it ok to mount a plaque with teachings from other religions in our parks, schools, and government buildings? While you may claim that our country is Christian, our government is founded on being non-religious, and our country on accepting people of different religions. Think of this from a broader context, not just a monument in a little park in Sandpoint, Idaho.

     
  • Ruby Ridge posted at 10:30 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    Ruby Ridge Posts: 72

    If people want to fight this, then let them pony up the money to fight this losing cause but don't spend one penny of the public's money. Put your money where your mouth. Talk is cheap. Lawyers aren't.

     
  • Sandpoint-John posted at 10:06 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    Sandpoint-John Posts: 63

    If you want to remove the ten commandments from government owned property, these litigious cowards should try first with the walls of the Supreme Court, and not picking on small towns with a simple monument of their long held traditions.
    No-one that I've seen has pointed out that this is not only an insult to Christians in Sandpoint, but it's a slap in the face of all the Hebrew members of our community. I thought that we did so well in eliminating antisemitism from the north of Idaho.....

     
  • zbigley posted at 9:54 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    zbigley Posts: 5

    "In a somewhat ironic twist, the public uproar centers around a monument many people said they didn’t know existed in Sandpoint. It’s unlikely it will escape notice again as the issue develops over the coming weeks."

    Classic, Cameron. Classic.

     
  • zbigley posted at 8:34 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    zbigley Posts: 5

    The first four are exclusively religious: no other god before me, no graven image, don't take the name in vain, and keep the sabbath holy. I don't see what those have to do with civilized society.

     
  • Sherlock posted at 8:06 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    Sherlock Posts: 959

    Leave it right where it is. It's doing no harm and just may do some good.

     
  • Sherlock posted at 8:05 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    Sherlock Posts: 959

    You are making a lot of assumptions.. How unchristian of you.

     
  • Lily posted at 7:08 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    Lily Posts: 114

    I totally agree. If you're bold enough to ruin a part of our community, let us see your face!

     
  • Lily posted at 6:58 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    Lily Posts: 114

    If they do decide to remove it, let the people who complained be the ones that take out, please!

     
  • Lily posted at 6:55 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    Lily Posts: 114

    How can someone that doesn't even live here tell us what we can have in our community park? There is nothing right about this. What will be next that we aren't allowed to have as part of our heritage?

     
  • JayDudley posted at 4:37 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    JayDudley Posts: 98

    It's sad that the Sandpoint City Council "caves and cowers" for a few who say they will sue if the ""Ten Commandments" plaque is not removed. REALLY? This type of reaction has to stop......

     
  • life is good posted at 3:21 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    life is good Posts: 617

    They say they have letters - someone must have written them - who are "they" ? Names, please --If these cowards can't be proud of what they are doing, it doesn't merit recognition --

     
  • Proud Sandpointer posted at 1:26 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    Proud Sandpointer Posts: 2

    Leave it to politicians to hide behind the threat of legal action in order to remove a monument that's been in the park for many years. Time to stand up against what, 4 complaint letters? As long as we have In God We Trust on our currency, surely we can leave the Ten Commandments on an unobtrusive tablet in our park. Whose town is it anyway? I'm proud of those who came out in support on Thursday.

     
  • Stuart posted at 12:23 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    Stuart Posts: 2

    I saw this coming over ten years ago when I first moved to Sandpoint. I went to the Farmer's Market one Saturday and saw all these old hippy "farmers" of an obvious left wing bent in a park with a Judeo-Christian monument. This cannot last, I thought, one day these sort of people are going to get those 10 Commandments removed. Well, I'm just surprised it took this long.

    Sorry folks, even though me and 95% of Bonner County would like that monument to stay, it won't. The opposition against tradition is utterly tireless and well funded. They will outlast you and they will win. Sad, but true.

     
  • LawrenceFury posted at 11:33 am on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    LawrenceFury Posts: 701

    I'm not religious, but whether you are or not, the 10 commandments are merely simple rules of a civilized society. Quit bowing to some small group a 1,000 miles away who can keep their noses out of our business.

     
  • Aaron C posted at 10:15 am on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    Aaron C Posts: 339

    So a handful of complaints from non residents is enough to warrant a lawsuit over a piece of rock with some words etched in it? The Foundation is just trying to push its agenda if its really willing to spend that much money in court over a monument that offends virtually no one.

    And on top of that, they have no case because the Supreme Court already ruled in favor of keeping the donated Eagle's monument in the exact same case that came out of Texas (Van Orden v. Perry 2005). Which means that the Foundation will lose but is going to cost the taxpaying citizens of Sandpoint a fortune in legal fees for their agenda push.

    So what's really causing the most damage to Sandpoint here: a moderately religious monument that's been here for 40 years? Or a tiny group of citizens that is willing to financially punish everyone else over an inconsequential issue? Pick your battles wisely Sandpoint, but if you let them win you set the precedent that you can be bullied over anything that offends a handful of people.