Note: we are republishing this story to highlight our coverage of incidents involving the 1st amendment and the establishment cause, which prohibits government from encouraging or promoting religion.
An Eagle Scout Memorial in Monument, Colorado, is under fire for mentioning Jesus Christ.
The project, started by 16-year-old Michael Carlson’s family to honor American veterans, was a way for Carlson to incorporate his family’s military pride into his Eagle Scout Project.
The memorial is a tribute to his grandfather, a WWII veteran, and his father, a Vietnam War veteran.
For two years, Carlson planned and raised funds for the project, and even sketched it.
Speaking about the project, Mayor Don Wilson stated: “Michael saw veterans were underrepresented here. He didn’t go to the government and say ‘Fix this.’ He decided to fix it himself and asked the government to help. His leadership and patriotism has bettered our community.”
The town helped move the project along by digging up land for the memorial and taking out the grass surrounding the flagpole. The family had purchased the plots for the memorial.
The memorial has a sculpture of the Battlefield Cross, a small stone half-circle wall and a stone monument into which the six challenge coins bearing the emblems of the branches of the U.S. military have been embedded.
The inscription below the coins reads: “Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you, Jesus Christ and the American soldier. One died for your soul, the other died for your freedom. We honor those who made freedom a reality.”
Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Michael “Mikey” Weinstein took issue with the inscription, and sent a letter to the mayor stating: “The obviously and incontrovertibly sectarian, Christian proselytizing message of that Veterans Memorial would be absolutely fine in a private cemetery, but in a publicly maintained and controlled cemetery, as in this instant matter, it is quite unconstitutional and illegal.”
He also added that the use of challenge coins was a violation of Department of Defense trademark licensing guidelines, and that the town “weaponized Christianity, at least this version of it” by allowing Carson to put up the memorial.
He is demanding that the monument be removed or that the mention of Jesus be taken off.
Weinstein maintains his belief that the memorial is a violation of the separation of church and state, and is looking to file a lawsuit.
First Liberty offered to defend Carson, who is the target of Weinstein’s public threats and bullying. The organization offered represent the town and provide counsel on how to respond to the “threat from Mr. Weinstein,” general council Mike Berry said.
“Remember…the memorial was privately funded and planned by Michael’s own efforts. That means the headstone inscription referencing Michael’s religious beliefs is private religious speech,” First Liberty stated. “The religious reference in no way suggests that the government is discriminating, excluding, or failing to honor military veterans of all faiths—or those of no faith—for their sacrifice. Also, while located in the town’s cemetery, Michael’s family purchased the plots where the memorial sits, ensuring that the town does not own the memorial and is not responsible for its maintenance.”
Sources: The Mix