- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The Boone County Commission likely will decide this month whether to move from public land an Operation Desert Storm memorial that includes a religious symbol.

The memorial includes a small ichthus, sometimes called a “Jesus fish.” It is one of several memorials to veterans of different wars on the Courthouse Plaza near the Boone County courthouse.

The commission has wrestled with the issue since Americans United for Separation of Church and State threatened in June 2014 to take legal action against governments that allow religious symbols on public land. The commission ordered the symbol covered last summer.

The memorial, which was installed in 1992, includes the names of two Missouri men who were killed in Operation Desert Storm, Navy Lt. Patrick Connor and Army Reserve Spc. Steven Farnen.

The commission on Thursday will consider an order to move the memorial to the historic Columbia Cemetery. The official order is based on a legal review from Columbia attorney Dan Simon, whose report concluded that the memorial violates the Missouri Constitution, The Columbia Daily Tribune reports (https://bit.ly/1DTegfE ). A second reading and final approval of the relocation order is on the commission’s Aug. 11 meeting agenda.

Farnen’s father, Hugh Farnen of Centralia, accused the commission of being anti-Christian. He and his wife, Gladys, were among the more than 120 people who attended a public meeting on the issue on June 30, with a majority of speakers urging the commission to uncover the ichthus and leave the memorial in place.

“I wonder if they ever thought of the anguish they were going to cause the Connors and us,” said Farnen.

“Why do they want to give in to some outfit way out in Washington, D.C., and not pay attention to the people here in Boone County?” Farnen asked.

The Columbia Cemetery Association, a not-for-profit, private organization, has offered to take the memorial with the ichthus uncovered.

“If that is moved, and I come back and it’s not there, it will be like when I first got word that Patrick was missing in action,” said Connor’s mother, Marsha Connor. “This Gold Star mother’s heart will be broken.”

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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, https://www.columbiatribune.com

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