An atheist group is weighing a lawsuit after the state of Indiana defied the organization’s objections by accepting a sculpture honoring military veterans that depicts a white Latin cross.
The 8-foot sculpture fashioned by a chainsaw at Whitewater Memorial State Park includes at its base a 14-inch cross. The Christian symbol “has no place in a state park,” according to the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Foundation attorney Rebecca Markert said Tuesday that the group has not yet decided whether to take legal action on the sculpture, which was formally accepted Sept. 2 by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
“We’ve actually heard from a lot of people in Indiana who would like to take part in the lawsuit if one gets filed,” said Ms. Markert.
She added that the foundation “is disappointed that the state of Indiana has decided to accept this monument, which has religious imagery, in a state park.”
Her comments came after the Liberty Institute sent a letter Tuesday challenging the foundation’s legal analysis in its Aug. 20 letter of complaint. The Texas-based institute represents the sculptor, Dayle K. Lewis.
“By all accounts the small cross on the new memorial depicts a historically accurate grave marker symbolizing the burial site of a fallen soldier,” said the letter from Roger Byron, Liberty Institute senior counsel. “Considering the new memorial’s history, purpose and context, the memorial and its permanent display in the park are well within the bounds of the Establishment Clause.”
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence drew headlines earlier this month when he defended the department’s decision to accept and display the memorial.
“The freedom of religion does not require freedom from religion,” the Republican governor said in a Sept. 2 statement. “The constitutions of our state and nation more than allow the placement of this Hoosier artist’s sculpture on public land.”
The sculpture is dominated by a giant bald eagle atop a perch with the inscription, “All Gave Some, Some Gave All.” The cross sits at the bottom of the sculpture to mark the grave of a soldier.
Whitewater Memorial State Park was dedicated in 1949 to honor veterans of World War II.