MONUMENT, Colo. (KRDO) -- A non-profit is considering filing a lawsuit against the City of Monument for a religious memorial they say goes against the constitution.
The memorial, located at the Monument Cemetery, was created in October 2020 by a 16-year-old for his Eagle Scout Project. According to the project, it was designed to honor fallen military members, as well as his father and grandfather who both served in the military.
The memorial reads: "Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you: Jesus Christ and the American Soldier; one died for your soul, the other died for your freedom." "We honor those who made freedom a reality"
The stone tablet also has six military branch insignias placed above the phrase. Which led a small group of Monument residents, made up of active-duty members and veterans, reaching out to a non-profit about the memorial.
“It is un-American, it is unconstitutional, it violates the Colorado constitution and it is completely wrong on every possible level,” says Mikey Weinstein the founder and president of Military Religious Freedom Foundation. A civil rights advocacy organization that currently represents over 72,000 active duty military members. Weinstein says about 95% of whom identify as practicing Christians.
Weinstein says there are two main issues with the memorial. The first being that it goes against the First Amendment's Establishment clause that prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” The clause also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another.
Since the memorial was placed on public property, Weinstein argues the City of Monument is favoring one religion over others. “When it’s on public property it’s as though you are saying that the government is endorsing the fact that Jesus Christ is the only defining force that is there to ever to give his life for your soul,” Weinstein says.
The other issue is the six military branch insignias placed on the memorial. Weinstein says it goes against the Department of Defenses regulations. “One of the things in the defining regulation makes it clear that those logos can never be used to promote a partisan or sectarian political or religious agenda so here they are clearly wrong,” Weinstein says.
Weinstein says his foundation isn't trying to bully the teenager who created the memorial, "I think that the young man had a very, very worthwhile and admirable goal to honor all veterans and his dad and his grandfather but you can’t do that by mixing in the government and making it clear that the government is saying that Jesus Christ is the only God out there.” Rather, Weinstein blames the city for letting it happen.
As for Weinstein's solution to the memorial, “There is an easy way to fix it, pull out that stone, change the wording and take off the DOD logos that absolutely violate the trademark licensing rights.”
The other option is potentially being served with a lawsuit.
However, Mike Berry with First Liberty Institute, which offered to represent Monument during this controversy, says the city won't take it down. “The town of Monument has no intention of removing this memorial," Berry says.
Berry's argument is, that the memorial isn't on public property, but private property owned by the family who created it. Berry says, “It’s a private memorial on private property and therefore its private speech and it’s protected under the first amendment.”
As for the insignias, he says there is nothing illegal about using them, “The logos that are depicted on the memorial itself are permissible logos to be used.”
When asked about the memorial being on private property, Weinstein says it wasn't always that way. “It was the threat of going into federal court that forced the town of Monument to very dishonestly and disingenuously to sell the land the family about 288 hours ago,” Weinstein says.
Weinstein says his team is now looking into the sale of the private land at the cemetery, which the memorial sits on, as both sides prepare for a legal battle.