Coos Bay, Oregon — A nationally-known atheist activist organization is demanding that a city in Oregon immediately remove a cross from a publicly-displayed monument that honors those who died in the Vietnam War.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently sent a letter to officials in Coos Bay, Oregon, stating that the monument displayed in Mingus Park violates the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. The organization advised that it received complaints about the display, and was therefore responding on behalf of the unhappy citizens.
“Our complainants inform us that a white cross sits in the park near a playground,” the letter stated. “Our complainants further inform us that this display has been in the park for several decades. There have also been recent efforts to restore the cross.”
FFRF continued by outlining that crosses are naturally symbols of Christianity — especially the Latin cross displayed on the monument.
“The inherent religious significance of the Latin cross is undeniable and is not disguisable,” it explained. “No secular purpose, no matter how sincere, will detract from the overall message that the cross stands for Christianity and the overall display of Christianity.”
The letter asserted that Christian-themed monuments on public property are unconstitutional.
“We have no objection to veteran’s memorials,” FFRF said. “Our objection is to the message of endorsement of Christianity over other religions and over non-religion.”
“Additionally, the Christian-only memorial sends a message that the government only cares about the deaths of Christian soldiers, not Jewish, other nonChristian and nonreligious soldiers,” it contended.
The letter then demanded that the cross be removed swiftly or that the monument be relocated to private property.
“It is unlawful for Coos Bay to display a patently religious symbol such as a Christian cross on private property,” it asserted. “We ask you to remove the cross from the park immediately or direct the display be moved to a more appropriate private location.”
The city states that it is still contemplating the organization’s demands.
“The city received [the letter] and we passed it off to our city attorney to review that and relevant case law,” City Manager Rodger Craddock told station KCBY. “Obviously these issues are happening around the nation.”
Reaction from area residents has been mixed.
“Christians have grown brazen in their attempts to make this country a theocracy. We are putting a stop to it,” one commenter named Ellie wrote. “It’s gone on far too long, and we are fighting back.”
“All the monument does is honor those who died at our government orders. It says nothing about establishing a religion,” stated another named Shirley. “Besides the [Constitution] says nothing about separation of church and state, never seen these words in the [Constitution]!”
“The fact of the matter is that this country was settled so people could freely choose and practice their religion,” stated a third commenter named Ray. “I am so tired of the minority opinions getting their way. … And yes, I am a Vietnam veteran and served my country.”
A public hearing will be held on April 2nd in Coos Bay over the monument.