COOS BAY — The man who designed a contested war memorial says he got his idea from the federal government.

Landy Marshall served two tours in the Vietnam War. After he returned, he was among members of the Bay Area Jaycees who undertook construction of a Vietnam War memorial for Mingus Park.

“Where I got the idea was looking at TV and seeing all these bodies going to Arlington National Cemetery,” Marshall said. “And I can guarantee that the people that died weren’t all Christian.”

Marshall was one of more than 100 people who crammed into a Coos Bay Public Library meeting room Tuesday night, for a special city council meeting about the 41-year-old memorial. Dozens more packed the lobby and sidewalk outside, hoping for a chance to speak.

The controversy began after the city received a February letter from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. The group contends the cross is unconstitutional and wants it removed immediately.

City Manager Roger Craddock said several law firms have offered to represent the city for free.

In a statement Wednesday morning, the city said it would be working with attorneys from the Liberty Institute — a national law firm that represents the Veterans of Foreign Wars association in legal challenges over memorials with religious symbols. The Liberty Institute will evaluate the constitutionality of the memorial in Mingus Park.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the city invited public comments and reserved the library’s Myrtlewood Room in an attempt to seat more people than the council chambers at city hall. But the room could seat only 120.

Coos Bay Fire Chief Stan Gibson stood by the door, counting audience members as they entered to keep track of the room’s capacity. Craddock said the turnout was the largest he’d seen in recent years. People who couldn’t get in waved American flags outside the conference room’s window.

Craddock presented the council with four options: It could leave the memorial as is and face a potential lawsuit. It could modify the memorial by removing the cross. It could sell or lease the land beneath the cross. Or it could move it to private property elsewhere.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that a memorial cross in Mojave National Preserve could remain if the parcel of property it stood on was transferred to a private body.

Iraq War veteran David Romanowski said the memorial was critical to veterans’ dignity.

“In the name of God, and our nation as a whole, do not take that away from them,” he said.

Coos Bay’s Kevin Dubisar, also an Iraq War veteran, was one of several audience members who said they would block any attempt to remove the cross — by force, if necessary.

Mayor Crystal Shoji forbade any kind of demonstration during the meeting, and officials enforced the rule. When speaker Barbara Weed asked cross supporters to stand,  Police Chief Gary McCullough and Capt. Chris Chapanar moved quickly to get her away from the microphone.

Although support for retaining the cross was overwhelming, dissenting voices also made themselves heard.

Dawn Brittain, a spokeswoman for the South Coast Secular Society, tried to maintain a positive note in making her case against the cross. “I’m an atheist. That tells you what I don’t believe,” she said. “I’m also a secular humanist. That tells you what I do believe in.”

Brittain said the choice of a cross is exclusionary to veterans of different or no faith.

Crystal Morris, who identified herself as an atheist, said fighting to retain the cross on the memorial would waste taxpayer funds. She said moving the cross to private property or removing it from the memorial are the only acceptable solutions.

An audience member loudly booed Morris as she finished speaking, prompting an apology from the mayor.

The council met briefly in executive session. The city has yet to decide its next course of action.

Reporter Thomas Moriarty can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or at thomas.moriarty@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasDMoriarty.

(52) comments

justaguy
justaguy

American Patriot is right... We all have the liberty and the right to display the symbol of our chosen faith.....In our home, on our property, or in our place of worship.... But Not on public property.

The American Patriot

It's not about religion. It's about Constitutional Liberties. Liberty only works if everyone respects the freedoms of each other. In a society where those who have differing opinions cannot respect the rights and liberties of others regardless of their personal views, then that society is no longer free, but is enslaved by intolerance, hate, disrespect, dishonor and all other corrupt character traits, and that nation becomes ripe for self-destruction. We are on the precipice of imploding.

The American Patriot

These veterans made great sacrifices during the war. They sacrificed their education, careers, their families, their health, and many sacrificed their very lives so even those Atheists could enjoy religious liberty, being free to NOT worship if they choose, but NOT free to take away the right of others to do so. And this is how those Atheists honor their sacrifice! Shame on them!!!

The American Patriot

So, what Liberties are being taken away from the Secular Humanists and Atheists with the Memorial being a Cross? NONE! But they are offended by the religious symbol for whatever reason (perhaps guilt over their disbelief), and so are determined to take away the Liberty of the Veterans out of disrespect and dishonor. If the anti-religious groups want a different symbol, they are certainly free to create there own, but they do not have the right to take away the right of the Veterans to display what they consider a War Memorial just because they are offended that it is religious in nature.

The American Patriot

Let me explain how Liberty works. Every American is guaranteed certain "unalienable" rights, whether you believe they come from God or are just inherent as human beings. You do not have the right to take away some else right to say, act or believe in something, nor do I have the right to take away YOUR liberties even if I disagree with them. The Veterans that created the War Memorial have the right to do so, as a cross or any other symbol so long as it doesn't break any law or ordinances, and doesn't take away the Constitutional Liberties of others.

ICee

Remove the cross and put up a statue memorial of a soldier holding a flag...or something similar. No wonder people can't make sense of anything anymore. There is no sense in anything. (rolling eyes)

justaguy
justaguy

Again...it's not about religion and its not about the veterans. It's really about the constitution of this great land and the protections it provides to ensure that the rights of the minority are not trampled by the will of the majority. If this "you don't live here so it's none of your business" mentality was valid then blacks in the south would still be drinking from separate fountains and women would not be voting. Remove the cross and move on.

Prilistine

Denton, you do not understand history if that's why you think the separation was put in place. Not to keep tyrants from persecuting religious people, but to prevent a situation like what goes on in England (and has since Henry VIII proclaimed it). The Queen, or King, in England is the head of the Anglican church. THAT is what the founders were actively trying to avoid.

hablarclaro

It's a symbol which is related to Christianity, but not in exclusivity. Do a bit of historical "digging" to become a bit more informed.
What about a "swastika"? Display one and that makes you Nazi, right? Hardly, as it is a symbol used widely by Native Americans and others.
Point being to those attacking this memorial need to wise up and perhaps devote their energies to matters and folks actually in need.

Stephanie

The people who are focused on removing a cross from a park that children play in have nothing better to do then sit around and try to think of things that bother "them"..they are selfish individuals who should leave this community. This community stands together when something is threatened and we shall do so on this as well. It it pathetic that a small group of "atheists" want to take away something that has an emotional meaning to so many people in this community. They need to get lives.

ree

I don't believe in any sort of organized religion and I am an army infantry (Iraq & Kosovo) vet. I say why bother taking the cross down? What harm is it doing really? It's kind of funny that the people complaining to remove the cross are not or have not been to combat or in the military for that matter. You guys need to find a new hobby other than trying to ruffle feathers where ever you go. It gets pretty stinking old....

lakeside

Atheists don't me, as long as, we have mutual respect while interacting during this period of life. I am fortunate that I "know" my existence here is a the learning phase of life, so much more is waiting for me in the next phase. Atheists "know" there is no God, therefore nothing waits for them. My life is calmer, enriched in belief and soothed by a higher power. If I'm wrong, I've had a comfortable life. If the Atheist is wrong, he/she has gambled everything for nothing.

DHCollins
DHCollins

@takturna,

It's this lack of recognition by Christians like yourself of "other" people that drives this whole thing. Religion is a private thing and it needs to be confined to the proper places of worship. Religious symbols in a public park crosses that line. It's not about the monument. It's about what's sitting atop it. x

Eddiemet11

And its the lack of respect from people like you that made this a problem in the first place

lady349

Are you kidding me. I waited very patiently and quietly for a chance to speak for 3 minutes and the entire time everyone was booing and hissing. I displayed nothing but respect for the chance to speak. I even gave up my set to allow a veteran to sit while I stood till another chair became available. I love our vets and think ALL VETERANS should be represented in a memorial. Not just Christians. The icon needs to change or if your that upset about provide your own yard to put the memorial on

hablarclaro

It's apparently too complicated for some such as yourself, and that's unfortunate as I tried to explain re: "symbolic" representations of a cross and swastika. Their meanings are multi-faceted, and for folks such as yourself to narrowly interpret them to simply bash Christians is more than lame. Wise up!

Stephanie

This country was "founded" on "In God we Trust." The men who went to war and lost their lives for this country to be free in the first place were "mostly" Christians. It is because of those men that you " Atheists" are free to believe in what you want, and because of the Constitution in the first place. Why is it that a small handful of Atheists believe they can have a say in something like a cross at a park, when the majority of this community are against it? Go somewhere else.

lakeside

"Separation of Church and State" was created by those with an agenda. It's not in the Constitution anywhere (please find the text and present it). The objective is to whittle away at the freedoms guaranteed and well constructed by our fore fathers. The challenges will not end with our small monument, it's a step "forward" toward future goals, that ends with the dissolution of our Constitution. Please, wake up. Your life as usual, is changing at a rapid rate. Atheists wake up, you are being used.

takturna

Isn’t it amazing that all of these so called atheists when something happens the words out of their mouth oh my God simple amazing with no God there should be no need for the word. I sure pity them also when the end comes. I would like to know why they have the right to tell us what we can display and what we can’t really it’s none of their business as they do not open this park and they sure don’t own the world so they need to crawl back in their holes and leave us God fearing people alone. Were not bothering them and they should not be allowed to tell us what to do

Sujameco
Sujameco

The Supreme Court has ruled "under God" in the Pledge and "In God We Trust" do not violate our Constitution because they have become examples of ceremonial deism, protected from Establishment Clause scrutiny chiefly because they have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content. In light of this legal opinion, Coos Bay could probably make a good case that this type of cross is merely a generic symbol of death.

lakeside

Good job Sujameco!!!

Geno activist for all

"My reading of history convinces me that most 'BAD' government results from TOO MUCH government." endorsed by me. Take a Poll: A 'landslide' of those that served, had a relative who served, Loved one: "I say: "Honor ALL who have died protecting Freedom" quote that does not exclude anyone in the Whole Wide World, Past, Present and Sadly, Future!! My poem for 09/11: "Weep No More America! Save....tears for 'Future' youths who will die because of 9/11. NBC; Pub. along with Eagle w/a tear! Landrum

Denton

I am tired of people twisting the Separation of Church and State.That was written after the experiences of the founders with the Catholic Church running the government and church.Not to eliminate faith as the basis of our country, but to keep tyrants from taking away religious freedoms to worship God. That includes a cross on a memorial. To incite and disrespect our veterans like this is outrageous and un-American. All they did was remember an terrible war and those who served. Leave them alone.

Prilistine

Take the cross off it and they will be left alone.

Malea

OR they can leave us alone as that cross should be protected by the first amendment. That memorial has the right to display whatever religion it wants.

Denton

Whoever started this how drama should be given a new country to live in. It wasn't enough insult to our troops coming back from Vietnam to be spit on and called baby killer, no. Now this person has to start stirring the pot and urinating on these vets some more. Disrespectful in every way. Folks, you just don't do that. IF someone has a problem with the Christian faith being part of America, please leave. This country was founded on Christian faith.

nascargrl88

Wabahuba, you really need to get your facts straight about the 'separation of church and state'. The founding fathers' original intent was to keep the state out of the church. One of the reasons the Pilgrims came to America was to worship freely without being persecuted.

Wabahuba

Separation is separation. Maybe you should get your facts straight. The Pilgrims had nothing to do with the writing of the constitution. How do you know what the founding fathers' intent was? Whatever supports your beliefs? Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Separation of church and state protects your freedom to worship freely, or not worship. Why can't you people understand that? You take it as a threat when it actually protects your right.

Malea

Because people like this ARE using it as a threat. First amendment: freedom of religion.

Wabahuba

It's an ugly lame memorial to begin with and excludes all non Christians. I've never bothered with looking twice at it. How about a new memorial with a little class, creativity and aesthetic interest that truely honors all veterans. Move the old one to private property. If everyone that went to the meeting donated $25 it would probably cover it.

Maxine


war is ugly

annunaki

Dismissing veterans of faith and non-faith outside of Christianity is ugly.

lady349

Exactly. How dare you treat any one outside of your religion with such disregard. I still can't believe how rude you people were to me. I waited very patently and polity for over 2 hours to speak. When I got my 3 minutes everyone booed and hissed the entire time. That's not OK. Not at all. I was nothing but respectful, but because I announced I'm an atheist I don't deserve respect enough to speak?? That's messed up. You need to learn what respect is.

laurar83

My grandfather was a WWII veteran. His brother died in combat. Grandpa was an atheist until the day he died. He insisted there be no religion at his funeral. Why is it ok for a memorial for veterans to exclude him?

Maxine

My gandfather didn't serve in any War. He's OK with the Memorial. Keep it where it is !!!!!!

annunaki

I served for 22 years and retired. My father served for 13 (Vietnam Vet) and both my grandfathers served and retired. None of us were/are christian and this type of memorial is dismissive and exclusionary toward those with differing faiths and non-faiths.

Denton

I find it hard for someone to say that one was an atheist after going into combat at war. My step grandfather was not a Christian by no means, but when he was Iwo Jima getting the showered with bullets and watching thousands of men die, he wasn't crying for his mommy in a fox hole.....

lady349

Your grandfather was a brave man for being an Atheist in those days. I respect and honor him along with all the men and woman who have fought for this country. There is no reason there should any religion symbol associated with a memorial. Christians are getting heated over what never was suppose to be there in the first place. It's very simple change the icon or move the cross to your own property.

Malea

Putting a cross on a memorial doesn't mean they're excluding him. Everyone wasn't a Christian, but that's the way the memorial was made.

Maxine

Are you kidding me ! What would be next. No Vetrans Day Parade because it is on City own streets ? No Flags in any Parade. No children going to Christian Schools riding on floats. Give us a break .My Husband was a WW II /Korean Vet served to preserve our freedom and freedom of speech..Don't get into my FREEDOM of speech and I won't get into yours. Leave the Memorial alone. Keep it in Mingus Park.That will be our city's freedom.

annunaki

You completely miss the point of the contention. Please re-read and try to comprehend.

Wabahuba

Maxine, you don't get it. The issue isn't about Veterans. It's about the constitutional separation of church and state. The city isn't free to show priority or endorsment of one religious belief over another. Would you feel the same way if it was a star of David on it representing the Jewish faith? The city can resolve the situation or be forced to by the courts. It would be a lot cheaper to just erect a new memorial that honors all veterans and excludes none.

Malea

If the man had put a star of David on the memorial, then fine, whatever. He has the right to do so.

LauraRG

Everyone has their opinions. I say sell or lease the land under the memorial. That way those who think it it outrageous that there is a cross in a park, won't be able to say a word since it is on private property. That also makes those that are in favor of keeping it happy. This whole issue is stupid. The person who made the complaint has admitted they don't frequent the park! Get a life people! It's been there for 41 years without a second thought so why is it an issue now?!?

Shyrider

I don't see what the big deal is, good lord it is just something to complain about, nothing more than that!!! I mean really, you are going to complain about a cross in a park??? Do you people have nothing better to do with your time then to create DRAMA!!!

reedsportresident

Not taken the cross down is exactly what the FFRF need to establish their case &the fact they used city council funding and manpower to maintain the cross, which they city admits too. Everytime someone says keep the cross and go to court at any cost I cringe wondering if this person understands, if the cross come down Monday, that Tuesday it can be put back up under private funding I say don't pay the FFRF money whores a dime & take down the cross and reestablished the cross by private fund

Wabahuba

What about all the Jewish soldiers that died? Keep the memorial and just remove the cross.

big john

Leave the memorial and cross as it is in honor of our fallen brothers.

Denton

Trust me, we stand in support with your opinion.

DHCollins
DHCollins

Removing the memorial would. Removing the cross atop the memorial would not.

Meet half way. Remove the cross and leave the rest in place.

x

yonnie

Everyone is in an uproar over the wrong issue! Thanks to Gene Melton and Jason Payne!
The issue is the cross, not the memorial! There is no pending lawsuit!

yonnie

What's the big deal? Just remove the cross from the memorial and be done with it. Gene Melton and Jason Payne should be charged with inciting to riot! All this hoopla over a chunk of cement is outrageous!

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