TEGA CAY, S.C. — A city in South Carolina has decided to return a monument meant to honor fallen police officers after it was initially removed due to controversy over the prayer inscribed on the back. A Bible citation on the front of the stone, however, will not be included on the reinstated monument.
“After careful consideration and much conversation with people on both sides of the discussion, City Council has made the decision that the Police Officer’s Prayer will be restored to its original condition and returned to the Fallen Officers’ Memorial located at the new police station,” the City of Tega Cay has announced in a statement.
A Scripture reference to Matthew 5:9 on the front of the monument will not be included once reinstalled. The verse comes from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, in which He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
As previously reported, the Women’s Club of Tega Cay recently donated the 4-foot stone monument, which features “The Police Officer’s Prayer” and “The Peace Keeper’s Verse” to the new city police station. The prayer is written on the back of the stone and is not visible from the street.
“Lord, I ask for courage to face and conquer my own fears, courage to take me where others will not go. I ask for the strength — strength of body to protect others, and strength of spirit to lead others,” the inscription reads. “I ask for dedication — dedication to do my job, to do it well [and] dedication to my community to keep it safe.”
“Give me, Lord, concern for those who trust me and compassion for those who need me,” it states. “And please, Lord, through it all, be at my side.”
However, not long after it was installed and a photo of the display was posted to Facebook, local residents began to complain about the monument’s religious nature, claiming that it violates the “separation of Church and State.”
“We started getting a lot of negative backlash, and they started reaching out to council members,” City Manager Charles Funderburk told local television station WSOC-TV. “It wasn’t just one person.”
After meeting with city council members and the city attorney, it was decided to plaster over the word “Lord” on the monument — which appears three times — as well as the Scripture citation, in order to avoid a lawsuit.
“I think what we’ve done is a compromise,” Funderburk opined. “You’ve still got the message of the prayer on the back, [but] we’ve removed the religious reference …”
However, some local and state residents then objected to the decision to cover up references to the Lord, including U.S Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill.
“Our Creator gave us God-given rights, and last time I checked, it was ‘One nation under God.’ To have this scratched out is sad to say the least,” he said in a video posted to social media. “That’s why we’re fighting in Washington, D.C. to put God back in public buildings like this and put God back in our schools. This is sad, and it never should have happened.”
State Rep. Bruce Bryant, R-York, also expressed his disagreement with the decision.
“There would not be a need for law enforcement officers if the Ten Commandments were followed,” Bryant noted, according to the Rock Hill Herald. “But they are not. That’s where police officers, the bravest and most courageous, come in. To help their fellow man under God.”
On Friday, City officials announced that the monument would be restored — but with a compromise. The prayer will be included as originally inscribed, but a Bible citation on the front of the stone will be left out of the monument.
“By restoring the Police Officer’s Prayer on the back and not restoring the reference to the Bible verse on the front of the monument, we can begin to understand what it means to compromise even when we completely disagree,” the City said in response to one commenter. “Not everyone has the same beliefs, but we know this: We love our community, our police officers, and are proud to live in the greatest city in S.C.”
Reaction to the City’s statement surrounding the compromised restoration has been mixed.
“I am appreciative of both sides who took their time to work together for a solution that worked for all,” one commenter wrote. “The lesson here is: people are free to have opposing opinions, but they must also be open to working with each other for a solution.”
“This shouldn’t have had to be considered in the first place! Stop bowing down to a few and do what’s right!” another stated. “We are ‘One Nation Under God’ and should always be!”
“God is the one who protects our officers everyday. Very sad to see that a few crazies get what the want and everyone else has to compromise,” a third remarked.
“[T]his is not a win,” another opined. “Mr. Mayor, it’s clear that the majority of TC citizens want the memorial truly reinstated as it originally was.”