A lawsuit filed last year by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center pressured Roselle Park (New Jersey) Mayor Carl Hokanson to temporarily remove a display featuring a soldier kneeling in front of a Christian cross from the local library.
That removal is now permanent.
Hokanson had put the display up in July. Even though the AHA sent a warning latter about the legal problems with this government promotion of Christianity, the city council retroactively approved the decision anyway. That’s why the AHA filed a lawsuit against the mayor and city in October.
The mayor didn’t wait for a judgment. He removed the display as soon as the lawsuit was filed, but not without blaming the council member, Charlene Storey, who was a plaintiff in this case.
When I donated the “Kneeling Soldier” it was with the utmost respect for ALL VETERANS!! To say that I was singling out a select group was far from the truth. And after the council meeting on August 18, it was clear to me that nearly all of the residents in attendance felt the same way. While there were a few who spoke against it, the majority supported it. Consequently, I had every hope at that time; councilwoman Storey would rescind her law suit.
It is incomprehensible to me that while we struggle to keep our community affordable, that any member of this council would put their own personal needs and agenda above the people we have been elected to serve. I wish to add that councilwoman Storey was approached after the August meeting in an attempt to mediate these differences but she refused.
I strongly believe, like many of you, that this tribute to our veterans should remain as is. However, I will temporarily remove the “Kneeling Soldier” while the Storey lawsuit plays out in court.”
It was an awful thing to say. Storey was protecting the city from breaking the law by speaking out against the display; if the mayor wanted to violate the Constitution, the responsibility for any lawsuit fines fell entirely on him, not the whistleblower. He had no right to blame her.
And just because the display claims to be for “ALL VETERANS” doesn’t mean it accomplishes that. Not all veterans bow down to the Christian God.
Looks like the Roselle Park council members finally realized that. At their May 4 meeting, they voted unanimously in favor of settling this case (Storey recused herself from the vote). While the actual agreement is not yet available, reports say the borough will not restore the memorial or put up similar displays in the future.
The council members should thank Storey for helping them avoid a costly lawsuit.
(Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)