Freedom From Religion Foundation Signs Up 22 La Crosse-area Citizens in its Ten Commandments Challen

Heartening Development in Jeopardized Lawsuit

(MADISON, WI) Twenty-two La Crosse-area residents agreed to be named plaintiffs and have joined the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s federal lawsuit challenging a Ten Commandments marker in city-owned Cameron Park, La Crosse, Wis.

The Foundation originally filed its legal complaint on July 1 with “Jane and John Doe,” two La Crosse residents, and sought a protective order to keep their names private. More than 4,000 residents signed a petition to the city council demanding to keep the marker on public property, Ten Commandment posters are up on countless lawns, and the letters to the editor have been filled with vituperative reactions against the Foundation challenge.

Last month, the man who filed as “John Doe” died. Magistrate Steve Crocker ruled last week against the Foundation’s request to protect the confidentiality of the plaintiffs. When it was learned that the Foundation’s lawsuit was jeopardized by that ruling, many La Crosse-area citizens contacted the Foundation to ensure the challenge would continue.

“It is very heartening to have so many residents come forward to defend the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. We think this makes quite a statement to the community of the broad concern that religion not be promoted by government,” said Foundation president Anne Gaylor.

“We thank them all, and our original Jane Doe plaintiff, for having the courage of their convictions,” she added. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is also a plaintiff.

The Foundation was given until Aug. 7 to name the individuals who are joining the lawsuit as plaintiffs. The diverse list of plaintiffs includes Foundation members, a Catholic man, a Jewish woman, and members of the local Unitarian-Universalists.

Some plaintiffs totally avoid using Cameron Park and nearby shops because of the presence of the religious monolith. Many avoid the park, but indicate they are distressed that they must go past the religious monument if they wish to go to the bank, shop at the Farmer’s Market at Cameron Park, or at the People’s Food Co-op located across the street. Another plaintiff was a member of the U.S. Navy, and as a military officer, took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which he believes is violated by the presence of the bible edicts in the center of a public park.

Jane Doe, John Doe, and Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. City of La Crosse, Case No. 02-CO-0376C, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, drawing Federal Judge Barbara Crabb.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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