A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a Ten Commandments monument in the city of Fargo, North Dakota.
It was donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1958 and was the only religious monument of its kind on city property. Long story short, it remains there even after two separate legal challenges.
The most recent one involved the Red River Freethinkers offering to pay for their own secular monument to be erected nearby the Ten Commandments one. But rather than allow that to happen, the city council voted on a new policy stating that no one else could put up a monument on the property. If that sounds illegal, that’s because it totally is. Last week, however, an Appeals Court ruled 2-1 in favor of the city.
I’m happy to say that Charles Sawicki, the president of the freethinkers group, says the fight’s not over yet:
A lawyer for the Red River Freethinkers intends to appeal an Aug. 25 ruling by a three-judge panel that sided with the city in a dispute over a monument of the Ten Commandments on public property near City Hall, said [Sawicki].
Sawicki said the group hit the $15,000 cap on what its members were willing to spend on the suit, but donors offered to pay for an appeal to a panel of all the 8th Circuit judges.
The next step would be to ask the entire Appeals Court to review the ruling (instead of just the three judges from before).
Here’s the kicker, though: The city officials have spent more than $120,000 of the taxpayers’ money on legal fees between these two lawsuits already. (The reason for the excessive cost is that they’re using a law firm from neighboring Minnesota that bills $270/hour, though spending anything defending this monument is too much.)
The city has spent $88,115 on the current lawsuit, said Kent Costin, the city’s finance director.
The first Freethinkers suit, filed in 2002, ended in 2005 when a judge ruled that the monument could stay because it represented both religious and secular messages.
That suit cost the city about $35,000, Mayor Dennis Walaker said at the time.
The city budgeted $50,000 for legal defense and claim payments this year, Costin said.
Unbelievable. And a complete waste of money.
It would have cost them — and the taxpayers — absolutely nothing to allow the atheists’ monument to be placed on city property. It would’ve cost virtually nothing to move the Ten Commandments monument to a local church where it belongs.
Instead, they have nothing better to do with that much money than to make sure Christianity remains the official religion of Fargo.
If I were living in Fargo, I’d be furious. Let’s hope there’s someone leading the charge to unseat the irresponsible elected officials who voted to keep this baseless fight going.
(Thanks to Chengis for the link)