A First Amendment rights group sent a letter to Indiana county officials last month calling for the removal of religious elements in a local memorial.
On Jan. 27, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that advocates for the separation between church and state, wrote to Franklin County, Indiana, officials regarding religious messages on the county's Emergency Services Memorial. The display, erected in 2010 and funded by private donations, commemorates fallen firefighters and police officers.
"We write to ask that the county remove the religious elements to its memorial to emergency service providers in order to be more inclusive of those who practice a minority religion or are non-religious," FFRF's letter said.
Sam Grover, FFRF staff attorney, said Franklin County residents approached the First Amendment group in regards to the Emergency Services Memorial.
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Inscribed on a stone in the middle of the display reads the phrase, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9."
Two benches surround the memorial, each with a prayer engraved in the seat back.
One bench bears the Policeman’s Prayer, which addresses the "Lord." The other bench shows the Fireman’s Prayer, which calls for the assistance of "God."
"Numerous memorials featuring religious emblems have been held to violate the Establishment Clause," the FFRF letter said. "There are countless ways to recognize the sacrifice of emergency service providers without also endorsing one religion over all others in violation of the Constitution.”
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Advocates from FFRF called for the removal of a different religious memorial last year.
In December 2014, the group filed a federal suit against Franklin County over a Nativity scene displayed annually in the courthouse square. County commissioners recently passed an ordinance changing the application procedures for setting up displays in courthouse square space as a result of the suit.
Franklin County officials declined to comment about the letter.