KNOXVILLE, Iowa — A prominent church-state separation group is seeking the removal of a veteran’s memorial in Iowa because it considers the cross grave marker included in the display to render the memorial religious.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) recently sent a letter to officials with the Iowa Department of Parks and Recreation to assert that the memorial, which is displayed in a Knoxville area park, after it said that it received a complaint about the monument presence on government property.
The display features the silhouette of a soldier bending down on one knee before a cross-shaped grave marker, and was reportedly placed in Young’s Park by a local veteran. The individual had not sought permission from the city, but the city saw no issue with the memorial since it was understood to honor veterans.
“The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government bodies from promoting religion on public land, including through the display of Latin crosses—‘the preeminent symbol of Christianity,'” the letter from AU reads. “Please remove the Latin cross from government property.”
The organization has requested that the Department reply within 30 days.
Knoxville Mayor Brian Hatch says that he was taken aback by the opposition.
“I’m shocked by the reaction of this,” Mayor Brian Hatch told local television station KCCI. “There are several of these around town. You see them all over the place.”
Area resident Doug Goff, a veteran, remarked to the outlet that he doesn’t believe the cross was used to promote a religious symbol, but was rather a replica of the headstones that are used in military cemeteries.
“For me, I think that the cross represents a headstone, and then the soldier is commemorating a fallen hero,” he said.
“Would you go to Arlington National Cemetery and ask to take down those crosses? No. Who would?” Goff told reporters. “There are millions of those there and we’ve got one.”
Goff is among those expected to attend a rally on August 30th in support of the memorial. A city council meeting is also planned for September 8th, during which time a public comment period will be made available over the matter.