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Maryland teen questions commandments monument in city park

By The Associated Press

05.16.02

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FREDERICK, Md. — A Ten Commandments monument that has stood in a city park for 44 years is inappropriate because it violates the First Amendment ban on state-sponsored religion, Mayor Jennifer Dougherty says.

A local Christian group says it will fight to save the monument, which is dedicated to Frederick's war dead.

Dougherty, a Democrat, said May 14 the city must resolve the issue, which a high school senior raised in a recent letter to City Hall.

"I do believe in the Ten Commandments, and I do believe in the separation of church and state," Dougherty said. "I don't think it is appropriate to have the Ten Commandments on city-owned property."

Robert F. Tansey, chairman of the Frederick County Christian Coalition, threatened legal action if the city tries to remove the stone tablet from Memorial Park.

"This is outrageous and is an insult to the veterans being honored in the park," he told Dougherty in an e-mail message obtained by The Frederick News-Post.

Tansey was appalled a teen-ager initiated the debate. "I think it is absolutely absurd that we should listen to an 18-year-old," he told the newspaper.

Urbana High School senior Blake Trettien, 18, argued in his April 16 letter that federal courts in other jurisdictions had ruled that identical monuments violated the Constitution. City attorney Heather Price Smith agreed and said there was a chance the city would have to remove the Ten Commandments.

Trettien was surprised his letter had created such a stir. "I wrote the letter just to bring that to the attention of the people in charge," he said.

He said he penned the note after hearing about a similar case in another state. In both cases, the tablets were gifts from the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which donated such monuments in cities and towns across the country in the 1950s.

City aldermen are divided on the issue, according to other City Hall e-mail obtained by the News-Post. Democrat Donna Ramsburg sent a message pushing for a public hearing and quick resolution recognizing the separation of church and state, such as removing the monument or selling the land beneath it.

Alderman David Lenhart, a Republican, said in an e-mail the city should take no action.

"I don't want to hear about the separation of church and state argument," he wrote. "It is a tired, overused argument which most people who use that statement either have no understanding what it means or they forgot that this country was founded under God, not exempt from Him."

Update

Maryland town officials hope park rededication will save Ten Commandments
Board designates park as historic cemetery; ACLU argues land's ownership should be transferred to private entity.  08.03.02

Related

Court hears dispute over another Tennessee commandments display
ACLU attorney tells federal judge that courthouse posting illegally endorses religion by including religious codes alongside secular documents.  05.07.02

Push for Ten Commandments displays gains momentum in South
Supporters see effort as way of encouraging morality, but civil libertarians view campaign as affront to nation's fundamental principles.  04.12.02

Ten Commandments plaque ordered out of Pennsylvania courthouse
Meanwhile, Nebraska city officials say they'll appeal decision that monument must be removed from city park.  03.07.02

Supreme Court refuses to clear up confusion over Ten Commandments display
Justices turn away appeal from Indiana governor who wanted permission to erect 7-foot monument on state Capitol grounds.  02.26.02

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