A national atheist organization is demanding that an Oregon city remove its Vietnam War memorial because it includes a cross.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation accused city leaders in Coos Bay of violating the so-called separation of church and state after erecting the war memorial 41 years ago. The FFRF is a group of freethinkers, atheists and agnostics.
“We have no objection to the veterans’ memorials,” FFRF attorney Rebecca Markert wrote to City Manager Rodger Craddock. “Our objection is to the message of endorsement of Christianity over other religions and non-religions.”
The FFRF said the city had violated the law by allowing the cross to be displayed on public property.
“The Christian-only memorial sends a message that the government only cares about the deaths of Christian soldiers, not Jewish, other non-Christian, and non-religious soldiers,” Markert wrote.
The war memorial was erected in Mingus Park in 1972 – a joint effort by the Western Bank and the Bay Area Jaycees.
Craddock told Fox News that over the years there have been a few complaints about the memorial.
“Records don’t reflect how many complaints or who they were – but they were referred to the Jaycees,” he said. “That’s the group that’s installed it.”
Craddock said city leaders will meet next week to discuss their options.
“It’s hard to say what’s going to happen,” he said. “We may be entertaining one of the offers we received from law firms to look into the matter.”
Word spread across the city that outsiders want the memorial removed – and that has many residents up in arms.
“With all the issues facing our city, we probably have more important things to do,” Craddock said.
Hiram Sasser, director of litigation with the Liberty Institute, told Fox News that activist groups like FFRF are waging a culture war.
“This is an outrageous assault on the veterans who served in Vietnam,” he said. “Why must these activist groups’ culture war spill over onto the veterans and their memorials? All they ever did was serve our country and provide the very freedom these activist groups claim as their own.”
Craddock said the FFRF is specifically upset about the Latin cross on the memorial.
“Many believe that cross is specific to the Christian religion and that’s why they believe it’s a violation of the separation of church and state,” he said.