It should be normal by now, yet, it still shocks us when we hear of lawsuits because of Christian symbols. It is even more shocking when our culture is giving in on this subject. This is nowhere truer than with the case of the King, North Carolina city council. They announced last Tuesday that they were settling a lawsuit with Steven Hewett.
Steven, an Afghanistan war veteran, said that the statue in a King public park violated his Constitutional rights. The statue, a memorial to military service, was of a soldier kneeling before a cross. He claimed that the memorial promoted Christianity. Fox quotes Hewett:
“I proudly served alongside a diverse group of soldiers with a variety of different religious beliefs,” he said in a news release. “The City of King should be honoring everyone who served our country, not using their service as an excuse to promote a single religion.”
Yet, there were many who did not see this as a religious matter at all. According to christiannews.net, Joseph T. Glatthaar, the Stephenson Distinguished Professor of History at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Told the court:
“I consider the artwork to be a tasteful display that honors veterans and am convinced that it suggests nothing more than a soldier paying tribute to a recently fallen comrade,” he wrote in a report submitted to the court. “Those who argue that this is an attempt to promote religion or one faith over another have simply taken the artist’s rendition out of its historical context and assumed things that the artist has not depicted.”
The statue, which the town dedicated a decade ago also had a Christian flag flying above. This was the beginning of the issue for Hewett. To seek to elevate tension and avoid a law suit, the town council set up a lottery for the flag. This would allow any religious flag, the people suggested, to be flown at intervals over the memorial. This did not satisfy Hewett, who brought lawsuit through Americans United for Separation of Church and State, (AUSCS).
The settlement was voted on after a federal judge ruled that the lawsuit should go forward. The settlement included a $500,000 payout by the city to AUSCS and a $1.00 donation to the same in the name of Hewett. The city released this statement:
“Both sides in this matter wish to avoid further costs, and this agreement will ensure that the City of King will not spend additional taxpayer funds to continue litigation in federal court,”
There are those who would claim that this was a win for democracy, but I would have to argue that it is just the opposite. If this were done on a democratic basis, then Hewett would have lost. Most of King claims to be Christian according to this from Fox:
“I feel this city has been sabotaged and bullied by folks who don’t believe in what this community stands for,” the newspaper quoted City Councilman Wesley Carter as saying when he voted against the settlement. “I feel like we have been pressured by insurance companies and attorneys who have never been to King. They don’t know what we are about and what this community stands for.”
We also have to remember that the lawsuit is based on an errant reading of the Constitution. There is no article in the Constitution that guarantees Hewett or any other person freedom from religion. If we are to be a people of laws and not a people of men, we have to stand and fight such tyranny.
I understand that attorneys, judges, and their insurance forced the city into this decision, but it seems that someone somewhere has to stand. If not, there will be no place where Christians will be free to exercise their religion. They are winning because we are not fighting.