Fight over Thou Shalts won't wilt
A Ten Commandments monument will remain on the lawn outside City Hall in Fargo, N.D., for now, but the City Commission's recent vote to keep it there won't end controversy over the marker.
The Red River Freethinkers, a group of about 100 people who believe the monument violates the constitutional separation of church and state, will continue to press commissioners to allow them to erect a new marker nearby. It would feature a quote from a 1797 treaty signed by the United States and Tripoli: "The United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
The 6-foot-tall granite Ten Commandments monument was donated to the city in 1958 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a service organization. It has been the most prominent feature of the lawn outside City Hall since 1961.
In 2002, Lindgren and several other residents filed a lawsuit demanding it be moved. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson ruled three years later that the monument has religious and secular connotations and concluded it doesn't suggest that the city endorses the religious message.
Opponents of relocating the Commandments monument collected 5,265 signatures — far more than the 2,850 needed to force commissioners to either accept an ordinance stating that any monument in place for longer than 40 years can't be moved or be required to allow voters to decide the matter next year.
The tumult dominated Scott Hennen's daily "Hot Talk" call-in show on WDAY-AM. Reaction to the plan to move the Commandments marker was "off the charts," Hennen says. "The commission got a real wake-up call on the sentiment of their citizens. … People said, 'Enough. Stop.' "
Last week, one commissioner switched his vote and the commission voted to keep the Ten Commandments monument where it is.
The possible eviction of the monument struck a nerve in the community, says Warren Ackley, a businessman who led the petition drive. "Common sense in the heartland prevailed," he says. "It's a pretty innocent marker. The commandments are good rules to live by."
Comment: Worth watching how this turns out! Full archive here