Fencing Off of Offending Shrine Concludes Lawsuit (December 2000)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s two and a half year court battle over a shrine to Jesus in a public park in Wisconsin concluded in November, with the erection of a 4-foot wrought-iron fence around the statue.

Two signs are posted on the gated fence surrounding the statue signifying that it is located on private property, as ordered by U.S. District Judge John Shabaz.

The Foundation, with Clarence Reinders of Marshfield as plaintiff, filed suit in 1998 after receiving complaints by residents and motorists about a Jesus statue dominating a public wayside park, reading “Christ Guide Us On Our Way.” The statue had been given to the town by the Knights of Columbus in the 1950s.

The Foundation’s lawsuit was initially dismissed by Shabaz after the city sold a prime parcel of the park to a group formed expressly to save the statue.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago agreed with the Foundation that the sale did not remedy the violation, because there was no wall or sign indicating the statue is now on private land.

The Appeals Court upheld the prearranged sale as legal, however. A three-judge panel ordered Shabaz to oversee the erection of a wall or fence with a visible disclaimer.

“How unfortunate for Marshfield taxpayers that its officials did not choose to move or isolate the Jesus shrine when we first asked,” said Anne Gaylor, Foundation president.

Occasional irate letters from religionists are still appearing in Marshfield’s daily paper, whose editor supported the presence of the Catholic shrine on public property.

Freedom From Religion Foundation