La Crosse Lawsuit Filed (August 2002)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s newest lawsuit is against the City of La Crosse, Wisconsin, over the placement of a Ten Commandments tombstone marker in a downtown city park.

“The monument is profoundly religious,” reads the complaint filed in federal court in Madison on July 1, 2002, “replete with messages that are unequivocally religious in nature. Its display on public property has the primary purpose and effect of advancing religion.”

Earlier this year, at the request of the Foundation, the City of Milwaukee moved a Ten Commandments marker from outside its city hall to private property. The City of Monroe, Wisconsin, also responded to the Foundation’s request with a vote to move its religious marker from a public park.

In response to the Foundation’s lawsuit, the city council in La Crosse has announced its intent to sell a small amount of the city park to the Eagles, a private religious group which donated the monument, and whose offices are across the street from the park.

“The lawsuit will proceed despite this manuever,” said Anne Nicol Gaylor, Foundation president. “The intent of the city in all this is purely religious; the property is not being opened for bid. It’s religious subterfuge, plain and simple.”

The Foundation has asked that its plaintiffs be anonymous, a Jane and John Doe, because of the city’s outpouring of religious condemnation. The city is opposing this request.

“Wouldn’t you think they would want to agree?” Gaylor said. “Anyone who reads the newspapers or listens to radio should know that we are dealing with religious fanatics.”

Meanwhile, one religious capitalist, a youth minister, is making money peddling plastic Ten Commandments for residents to put in their yards.

“They seemed to think it would bother us,” Gaylor said, “but we tried to explain that while we believe it’s tacky, it certainly is legitimate when the property involved is private. That’s the whole point. It is government ownership and endorsement of religion we object to, as well as the religious favoritism demonstrated in this scheme to sell a small piece of the park so a religious object can be displayed there.”

Attorney James Friedman of the firm of La Follette, Godfrey and Kahn is representing the Foundation.

Freedom From Religion Foundation