Christian Memorial Inappropriate at County Courthouse, Watchdog Charges
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is challenging a decision by the Buildings and Grounds Committee of Chippewa County, Wis., to keep a Christian memorial for fallen police officer Jason Zunker at the County Courthouse. At first, the same committee had voted to erase the Christian-wording on the monument, which had been erected in July. Last Thursday, however, the Committee voted unanimously to keep the monument on county property, at least until October.
Part of the memorial reads: You must ask Jesus into your heart, believe he died for you and believe he rose again." The rest of the passage includes references to God and the bible.
Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, in her letterof complaint, wrote: "A plaque bearing this quotation would be appropriate at a church, a private club or a family altar . . . It is a well-established principle in law that once a government body accepts a privately-paid-for monument, that government body becomes the owner, the publisher of the message."
Gaylor said, "It's very appropriate to memorialize this deputy, but not to memorialize his religious beliefs. It doesn't matter that (the monument) was donated. When it goes on government property, it gives off the appearance that government is endorsing his views."
The Foundation has suggested the County return the monument to the donors if they are unwilling to compromise and return to compliance with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Please send a short, firm, politely-worded message with your name, address and phone to the County Chairs, Committee Chair and Board members expressing your support of the removal of the religious components of the Zunker memorial. It would also be helpful to make this the subject of a Letter to the Editor to local papers.
1st Vice Chair
Building and Grounds Committee Chair
The Leader Telegram
Letter to the Editor