- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 3, 2002

FREDERICK, Md. The Board of Alderman, facing a possible constitutional challenge, has voted unanimously to rededicate a park as a historic cemetery so the Ten Commandments monument there might be allowed.

Alderman David Lenhart, who has been the most outspoken proponent of keeping the monument in place, said Thursday he was willing to fight for that cause.

"We do not need to be afraid and run and hide and capitulate" to the American Civil Liberties Union, he said.

City Attorney Heather Price-Smith said she didn't know whether the strategy would withstand a court challenge.

"I have never said this represents an absolute cure or an absolute defense. But it is my hope that this is a cure that will be recognized by the courts," she said.

The ACLU has criticized the plan to rededicate the park, saying ownership of the land should be transferred to a nongovernmental body to maintain separation of church and state.

The ACLU had given the city until Thursday to either resolve the issue or defend itself against a claim that the monument violates the Constitution's ban on state-sponsored religion.

The city and Frederick County jointly own Memorial Park, a small parcel in the downtown area that was formerly a church graveyard. About 300 people are buried there, according to Miss Price-Smith.

She drafted the resolution to rededicate Memorial Park as Bentz Street Graveyard Memorial Ground, the plot's name in a 1924 agreement documenting Evangelical Reform Church's donation of the old cemetery to the city and county.

She and Mayor Jennifer Dougherty have contended the rededicated burial ground would be similar to Arlington National Cemetery or other government-owned cemeteries where religious markers are displayed.

Dwight Sullivan, managing attorney for the ACLU of Maryland, has argued it would not be the same because the Ten Commandments monument was sanctioned by the government, rather than placed by private individuals.

The Ten Commandments monument was given to the city in 1958 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, an international service organization that gave dozens of similar monuments to cities across the country. It was in front of Frederick City Hall until 1985, when it was moved to Memorial Park.

The park currently is dedicated to Frederick's war dead. A large plaque a few feet from the Ten Commandments monument lists the names of those buried there.

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