- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

Many longtime Frederick residents are calling the controversy over a city park's stone monument etched with the Ten Commandments "silly," saying some interpretations of the Constitution have gone too far.
"What damage does it cause?" asked lifelong resident Darlene Brunot, 43, who hadn't noticed the monument until the issue hit the local news after a high school student sent a letter to the city government questioning the monument's presence.
Urbana High School senior Blake Trettien, 18, last month questioned why court rulings striking such monuments from public grounds didn't apply to his city.
The city attorney and mayor agree that the monument is inappropriate. The city council is divided. But on the streets, many believe the stone slab should be left alone.
"It is the only religious monument we have. It should stay," Miss Brunot said.
At issue is a four-foot slab donated to the city in 1958 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The statue and others like it around the nation was commissioned by movie mogul Cecil B. DeMille to promote his 1956 epic movie of the same name.
The monument first stood in front of the old courthouse currently Frederick's City Hall after Court House Square was sold to the city in the late 1960s. It was moved quietly in the 1980s to a 2-century-old cemetery-turned-memorial park. City leaders believed that was a more appropriate location, according to historian John Ashbury. It has been sitting there, in the middle of a block-long park, surrounded by a dozen other small memorials to veterans, deceased citizens and George Washington mostly unnoticed.
Now a vocal minority says the principles that the nation were founded on preclude a religious monument from sitting on publicly owned property.
"This is public property and that statue doesn't belong," said Louis Deliyannis, who has lived in Frederick for 10 years and works at a store around the corner from the monument.
"This country was not founded on God. The Founding Fathers wanted to get away from religion in government. The statue makes a statement against that."
Others disagreed.
"I thought I should take a look at it before another piece of our culture is stripped from us in the name of the Constitution," said Tom Evich, 34, a stockbroker from the city who strolled by the monument yesterday. "I don't agree with the way the elites interpret the Constitution. But the United States of America has been drifting this way for decades."
Robert F. Tansey, chairman of the Frederick County Christian Coalition vowed to fight the removal of the statue, saying "people are hot over the issue."
"My telephone has been going full blast and people are mad," he said.
"The talk about separation of church and state is bogus. I would like to know where in the Constitution it says anything about this."
Even so, there is plenty of legal precedent on the side of those who want the statue removed because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that such a display is clearly religious in nature unless it is integrated into an exhibit of historical documents.
In 1994, a four-foot replica of the Ten Commandments tablet displayed in the Montgomery County Circuit Courthouse was removed under pressure by the American Civil Liberties Union to comply with the court's ruling.
Similar cases in Indiana, Tennessee and Wisconsin led to judicial orders to remove the statues.
That doesn't matter to Mr. Ashbury, who said he was 19 years old when the slab was first placed near his house and near his father's church.
He questioned the validity of removing a religious monument from a former cemetery even if the site is publicly owned.
"Are they going to remove the stars and crosses from Arlington [National Cemetery]," he asked. "Of course not."


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