Some organizations are calling for the removal of a memorial for veterans in Colorado due to some references to Jesus Christ.
According to the Religion News Service, some groups, such as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A, have requested for the removal of the memorial at a cemetery in the town of Monument, citing its Christian connotation.
"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 plaque says.
The memorial was constructed through the two-year effort of Michael Carlson as an Eagle Scout project, honoring his World War 2 veteran grandfather, as well as his father who is also a veteran in the Vietnam war. Carlson's family was able to raise $50,000 in donations and the project was completed last year in October.
In a letter to Monument Town Mayor Don Wilson in February, MRFF President Mikey Weinstein claimed that the memorial violates the First Amendment since it favors Christianity over other religions, using the taxpayers' money.
"The obviously and incontrovertibly sectarian, Christian proselytizing message of that Veterans Memorial would be absolutely fine in a private cemetery, but in a publicly maintained and controlled cemetery, as in this instant matter, it is quite unconstitutional and illegal," Weinstein said.
He also threatened that the MRFF will file a lawsuit.
But the First Liberty Institute (FLI) argued that the memorial was "privately funded" by Carlson and thus, the headstone inscription bears his "religious beliefs and private religious speech." In addition, the piece of land where the memorial sits, though located at the town cemetery, was purchased by Carlson's family and therefore not a public property.
Mike Foreman, the town manager, confirmed that the town sold five grave plots in Monument Cemetery to Carlson's family on March 19 at $800 each, in a bid to avoid the lawsuit threatened by the MRFF.
In a response letter to MRFF, Stephanie Taub, a legal counsel at the FLI, demanded that the organization should apologize to Carlson.
"Your attack on a minor who simply intended to honor our veterans is profoundly disrespectful to all involved," Taub wrote.
"The Eagle Scout intended to use his voice to honor all the brave men and women who have served in our armed forces. The memorial he created is privately designed, privately maintained and located on private burial plots in Monument Cemetery," she added.
However, Weinstein told the Colorado Springs Indy that MRFF has "no issue" with Carlson but with the Boy Scout troop, town of Monument and government's money for the memorial's maintenance. The organization also questioned the plaque's use of logo belonging to the Department of Defense, which prohibits the usage of its "marks" in promoting "religious beliefs," among others.
Further, Weinstein contended that the transfer of lots was done improperly, having been sold after the memorial was installed and the complaint was raised.
Watch the video from First Liberty Institute below to learn more about the case: