Last year, we learned that a war memorial outside the Boone County courthouse in Missouri had finally covered up the Jesus Fish symbol that had been there for 20 years:
That happened as a result of a letter that Americans United For Separation of Church and State sent county officials back in May of 2014. Officials feared a losing lawsuit and decided it wasn’t a battle worth fighting.
But then they began to change their minds.
A dozen people spoke against the decision to cover the religious symbol at Thursday’s commission meeting. No one spoke in support of covering the ichthus. Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill said the commission would try to schedule a meeting within two weeks to reconsider the action. Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said she preferred to wait until lawsuits against other governmental entities are decided before considering the matter.
Most of the speakers criticized the decision to cover the ichthus as disrespectful to the veterans for whom the memorial was erected in 1992 and their families.
That was the crux of the issue: the people in Boone County just didn’t give a damn about any veterans who weren’t Christian. Or they wrongly assume every veteran believes in the same God as them. Whether it’s out of selfishness or ignorance, they have no business asking the government to promote Christianity on a monument. If they want the Jesus fish symbol, either they can put it up in their homes or at their churches — or the government must allow every non-Christian veteran the same opportunity.
For a while, it looked like government officials had finally come to their senses. Owners of a private cemetery had volunteered to take the Christian monument and put it up on their property and the county was ready to give them the green light.
Until relatives of one of the veterans found out:
Blessed be, the county thought, and sent letters to relatives suggesting the move. No dice, said one of the parents. Actually, he said, “No change.” He and his wife would not be satisfied with the move to the cemetery…
Henry J. Waters III of the Columbia Daily Tribune writes that the county’s going to have no choice but to follow the law:
After the county wriggles out of its current ichthus dilemma, which it must do by removing the fish symbol from public display on its lawn, it surely will adopt an enduring policy separating it from any such entanglement in the future. As mentioned here often, the only way for the county conceivably to allow displays and still remain legally separate would be to equally sponsor every display representing every sect, an obvious impossibility and a move that probably would not satisfy separation requirements anyway.
So the road in from the wilderness is clear: The county must leave the fish covered or move the monument, fish and all, away from public property. It won’t satisfy the families, and you can see why they gripe over the change of policy, but the case for separation is valid and clear; the county will have to come into compliance.
It’s their mistake, so it’s their responsibility to make things right again. That memorial should never have gone up in the first place with that symbol. Why it’s taking this long for local leaders to figure that out is beyond me.
(Image via Waymarking. Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)