HASTINGS, Neb. City officials and some residents are concerned
that a monument featuring the Ten Commandments at a city cemetery could be the
next target of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Parkview Cemetery marker was originally donated by the Fraternal
Order of Eagles to the Hastings Museum in the early 1960s. It was moved to the
city cemetery when construction began on the IMAX Theater.
"I can tell you that we have a number of religious symbols and
religious artifacts on the graves of loved ones who lay at rest on our
community cemetery," Mayor Phil Odum said.
The Nebraska ACLU claims there may be over 50 similar markers around
the state and it plans to investigate the situation and take action when the
organization considers it necessary.
"We have no beef with the Eagles putting up any kind of monument or
marker. Our beef is with cities that have religious displays on public land,"
Nebraska ACLU Executive Director Tim Butz said.
The argument doesn't sit well with resident Deanna Sharp.
"That's where people bury their loved ones. That's a religious factor.
Let it be," Sharp said.
It's too early to know if a lawsuit will be filed, Odum said.
The state ACLU also has raised First Amendment questions about similar
markers at city parks in Plattsmouth and Fremont.
Butz has said the Plattsmouth monument, which has sat in a city park
since 1965, has no historical significance and should not be on public
property. The Plattsmouth city attorney is reviewing the matter and will advise
the City Council on the legality of the marker at a later date.