The soothing sounds of Amazing Grace spread across Farmin Park last Thursday in Sandpoint, Idaho, as hundreds of protesters joined together. They held signs, they signed petitions and they gathered as one unified group for a common cause. On March 12, city officials said they were investigating removal options of a Ten Commandments monument in the park, which resulted in public outrages throughout town. Between 300 and 500 people attended the gathering in the park last week to express their anger.
Those in attendance said they did not like the idea of moving the monument at all and expressed anger that an outside group could force actions in their town of Sandpoint. The controversy erupted when word spread through social media that city officials wanted to move the monument after they had received several complaints throughout the past years from both residents and those visiting the town. Complaints to the town questioned if the monument goes against the separation of church and state principles held by this country. The Freedom from Religion Foundation, the largest national group for non-theists, sent the most recent letter stating that it causes unrest and questionable motives, asking the town to resolve the issue by removing the monument.
In 1972, the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, a local group, raised the funds and gave the monument to the town as a donation. The town was in contact with the group, feeling that they should consult the ones responsible for the monument and come to an agreement for its new location. Shortly after, news of the town’s intention got out and spread like wildfire. One of the outrages came from Friends of Idaho, a local conservative group, who caught wind of the town’s Ten Commandments monument and its possible removal. That is when they organized the meeting in the park and started the petitions.
The separation of church and state has always been a cornerstone of American principles. But recently increased scrutiny has focused on removing religious landmarks from government lands. Just recently, a Georgia bill was approved in the Senate that will place a granite stone in the capital building of Georgia. The monument will feature the prelude of Georgia’s constitution, an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, and the Ten Commandments. For now, the bill only has to be signed by Governor Deal, who is a Baptist, but there is no guarantee that that, too, will not face criticism.
The concern for the Georgian monument, as well as for the town of Sandpoint, Idaho, is that if these monuments are challenged in a court of law, they will most likely not win. Councilmen in Sandpoint said they received many angry calls about the removal of the monument, but the city’s reasons behind its possible removal was not meant as a slight to the religious community. It is to safeguard the town against lawsuits. A town press release stated that if they relocate the monument to a more appropriate place, they will not risk the legal repercussions. If they ignore the complaints they have received and leave the monument where it is now, they could stand to lose town money if sued.
Although the monument’s possible removal outrages certain town groups, it is likely only a matter of time before the Ten Commandments monument is relocated from the park. But for now, the monument has yet to be moved.
Opinion by Chris Dragicevich
Bonner County Daily Bee