City of Milwaukee Agrees to Remove Ten Commandments Monument at Freedom From Religion Foundation Req

First Eagles Monument to Be Placed on Public Property Will Be Removed

Following years of negotiation with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the City of Milwaukee has agreed to avoid a losing lawsuit by returning a Ten Commandments monument to the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

“It is significant that the first such Ten Commandments Eagles monument to be placed on public property is now being removed, in deference to the constitutional separation of church and state,” said Anne Gaylor, president of the Foundation, a national watchdog association based in Madison, Wis., which works to keep church and state separate.

“Courts around the country are finally acknowledging that the sacred text of one religion does not belong on public property. The First Commandment alone makes it obvious why government may not endorse these bible edicts. Citizens may worship whatever god they like, as many gods as they like, or none at all!”

The decalog was placed with great fanfare at the Milwaukee Municipal Building, with actor Yul Brenner in attendance, after being donated by Judge E.J. Ruegemer, chair of the Eagles’ National Youth Guidance Commission, to Mayor Frank P. Zeidler. The biblical monument was presented to Zeidler at the International convention of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1955, and apparently was installed at the Municipal Building in 1957. The presentation kicked off a national campaign by the Eagles, working with movie director Cecil B. DeMille, who was seeking to publicize his bible epic “The Ten Commandments,” by helping to erect the granite bible monument in as many public locations as possible.

In recent years the Ten Commandments marker has rested on a grassy plot by the Market Street entrance to the Municipal building.

Several years ago, the Foundation had negotiated an agreement by the City of Milwaukee to remove the monument, depending on the outcome of an appeal out of Indiana involving similar circumstances. Last May, the Supreme Court let stand a 7th Circuit Court ruling declaring an Eagles monument in front of an Indiana city hall to be an illegal endorsement of religion. (Elkhart v. Books,May 29, 2000)

The city council finally voted on Jan. 22 to remove the biblical edicts. The mayor’s office informed the Foundation of the action in writing late last week.

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court let stand stand a similar ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, refusing an appeal by Gov. Frank O’Bannon, who lost a bid to place the Ten Commandments in front of the Indiana State Capitol.

This month a federal court in Nebraska ordered removal of an Eagles Ten Commandments marker from a public park in Plattsmouth.

The Foundation now intends to revisit its legal challenge of a Ten Commandments monument donated by the Eagles to the City of La Crosse in the 1960’s. The Foundation’s federal court challenge in the mid-1980’s of the city-endorsed monument was dismissed on a technicality.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics and other nontheists) working since 1978 to keep church and state separate.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

Send this to a friend