COOS BAY – Police in Coos Bay, Oregon are investigating an explosion that was set off late last week near a Vietnam veterans war memorial cross that has been at the center of controversy since February.
As previously reported, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Coos Bay officials this past spring, 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.”
“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,” the letter contended.
FFRF 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.”
City officials were to have held a public meeting today about the presence of the cross; however, an explosion at the site late last week turned the matter on its head. According to a news release about the matter, the explosion occurred either late night Thursday or early morning Friday.
“[A]n unknown person(s) vandalized the memorial with an improvised explosive device,” police explained.
Therefore, the meeting surrounding the cross has been postponed until a later date.
[W]e want to give law enforcement time to investigate the most recent incident of criminal mischief at the site of the memorial,” police outlined. “In addition, as these types of senseless acts only serve to aggravate a highly emotionally charged issue, the Council will wait a few weeks before discussing the status of the memorial.”
The Liberty Institute, a Christian legal organization in Plano, Texas that was summoned by city officials to help defend the cross, said that the incident is telling of where America is headed as a nation.
“We unfortunately are now to the point where explosive devices are being placed next to crosses,” it wrote in a news release about the matter. “As we have said many times before, the attacks on religious freedom are increasing at an unprecedented rate. This incident in Coos Bay is a frightening example of just how far the opposition will go to eliminate any trace of religion from public view.”
The organization notes, however, that this is not the first time that the cross has been vandalized. In May of this year, an unidentified vandal drew a perforation line at the base of the cross with the word “cut” written above it and an arrow pointing down to the line. The word “remove” was also written in the middle of the cross.
But Liberty Institute says that opponents have reached a new low.
“The memorial sits next to a children’s playground area,” it advised. “Fortunately, in this case, no one was hurt, and the memorial only suffered superficial damage. But, what will happen next? How far will the hostility go?”
“[We] will not be intimidated,” the Christian legal group continued. “We will not back down when it comes to honoring the First Amendment, and we will continue to assist the City of Coos Bay in any way we can.”
No suspects have been named in the explosion at this time.