- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A Christian symbol previously covered on a Boone County war memorial for Operation Desert Storm veterans has been unofficially topped with a replacement.

Covered last year after Boone County commissioners grew concerned about a possible lawsuit, a new ichthus - commonly called the “Jesus fish” - was affixed to the Courthouse Plaza memorial sometime before Memorial Day, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1QcHMIh).

The memorial was installed in Columbia in 1992 to honor the county’s Gulf War veterans. It bears the name of two Christian men who were killed, Navy Lt. Patrick Connor and Army Reserve Spc. Steven Farnen.

Patrick Connor was a 1983 graduate of Hickman High School in Columbia. He was a bombardier/navigator and co-pilot in the Persian Gulf War when his plane went down on Feb. 2, 1991.

Commissioners voted to cover the Christian symbol with a plaque reading “Dedicated 1992” after threats from Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State to take legal action against local governments that allow religious symbols on public property.

Connor’s mother Marsha Connor, of Marcellus, New York, has called the commission’s decision an “affront” to American values. New York architect Peter Scavone, who helped garner private fundraising for the memorial, said it amounted to “desecrating” the memorial.

The commission so far has not taken action to remove the new ichthus.

“There’s no sense in fighting this every day,” Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said.

The Columbia Cemetery Association also has offered to move the memorial to a private cemetery in Columbia. The commission could opt to relocate the memorial and raise private funds to replace it.

Commissioners said last week that they plan on scheduling a meeting within the next few weeks to reconsider their earlier decision on the symbol.

They’re now gathering input from the veterans’ families and public comment.


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

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