A city in North Carolina has been forced to remove a memorial of a soldier kneeling next to a Christian cross after a man sued the city, saying it violated his rights.
Steven Hewett sued the city of King in November 2012 after he spotted the religious monument standing at Veteran’s Memorial in King Central Park. A lengthy and expensive legal battle ensued and, despite the fact that the memorial was reportedly paid for with private donations, the city council voted 3-2 last Tuesday to approve the removal of the statue, reports the Daily Mail.
City officials say their hands were tied because their litigation costs have already exceeded the city’s $1 million coverage and were fast approaching $2 million.
“Both sides in this matter wish to avoid further costs, and this agreement will ensure that the City of King will not spend additional taxpayers’ funds to continue litigation in federal court,” read a statement issued by the city.
Hewett has been awarded $1 in damages, but says he believes what he did was the right thing to honor those veterans whom he fought alongside in Afghanistan.
“I proudly served alongside a diverse group of soldiers with a variety of different religious beliefs," Hewett said. "The City of King should be honoring everyone who served our country, not using their service as an excuse to promote a single religion.”
The memorial has been standing for nearly one decade in the city of about 6,000 people, reports Fox News. As part of the agreement, the city will also pay $500,000 to Americans United for Separation of Church and State to cover the legal costs the organization has incurred over the lawsuit.
But not everyone is happy about the outcome of the suit.
City Councilman Wesley Carter, who voted against the settlement, reportedly told The Stokes News: “I feel this city has been sabotaged and bullied by folks who don’t believe in what this community stands for. I feel like we have been pressured by insurance companies and attorneys who have never been to King. They don’t know what we are about and what this community stands for.”