- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

The mayor of Frederick, Md., ordered police to stop a group of activists carrying a "Save the Ten Commandments" banner from marching in a weekend parade.
The group's leader, who had a permit to march in the parade with a banner, was handcuffed and detained until the parade had passed.
"I was shocked, shocked that we were not allowed to march in the parade," said Neil Parrott, 32, president of the Friends of Frederick. "I did not expect this kind of reaction from the city at all."
His group carried the banner to demonstrate support of the city's fight against a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to force the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from a public park.
Frederick City Hall spokeswoman Nancy Gregg Poss said Mayor Jennifer Dougherty ordered police to stop the group because it had violated its permit by having too many marchers and by displaying a different banner slogan than that approved by the permit.
The slogan also broke the customary ban on the display of political speech in the parade, part of an annual street festival.
"It is a city-run event, and that [banner] could imply and people could assume that it is the city's stance on the issue," Miss Poss said. "Political displays have historically not been allowed. That's why the permit asks specifically what will be on the banner."
Miss Poss said the permit allowed for three to five marchers and for a banner reading "Friends of Frederick."
About 15 marchers were participating in the parade on Saturday when they were stopped by police. When Mr. Parrott tried to re-enter the parade, police handcuffed him and placed him in a police car until the parade ended. He was released without being charged.
Lt. Tom Chase of the Frederick Police Department said Mr. Parrott was detained because he bumped into a police officer when trying to re-enter the parade, an action that is grounds for a charge of second-degree assault.
Officers on the scene decided it was not necessary to charge Mr. Parrott at the time, but the department will consult with the state's attorney before making a final decision about whether to press charges, Lt. Chase said.
A decision is expected by the end of the week, he said.
Mr. Parrott, a civil engineer from Middletown in Frederick County, said he was treated "cordially" by the police, but he disputed the assertion that he violated the permit.
"I have a great deal of respect for the mayor. She is a very wise woman, but she made a very foolish decision in this case," he said. "We are trying to preserve the history and heritage of Frederick and the freedom we have in Frederick to display the Ten Commandments on public property."
The Ten Commandments monument has been at the center of controversy in Frederick for the past six months, with advocates for freedom of religious speech at odds with those who believe it violates the First Amendment prohibition against state-sponsored religion.
A federal court in Baltimore will decide the dispute when it hears the ACLU lawsuit. No court date has yet been set.
Frederick's Ten Commandments debate began in April, when Blake Trettien, a senior at a Frederick County high school, sent a letter to City Hall challenging the constitutionality of the monument. The issue sparked a clash between city and county governments, which jointly own Memorial Park, where the monument is displayed.
In August, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Baltimore on behalf of Mr. Trettien to force the removal of the Ten Commandments from the park, an old graveyard converted in the 1920s to a park commemorating Frederick's war dead.
To avoid the lawsuit, the Frederick Board of Aldermen in August rededicated the park as a historic cemetery, saying religious symbols are appropriate on a site where about 300 people are still buried. The board changed the name of the parcel from Memorial Park to the Bentz Street Graveyard Memorial.
The ACLU proceeded with the lawsuit despite the move.


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