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Kenai to take public comment on veteran's memorial

Posted: March 18, 2014 - 11:06pm  |  Updated: March 21, 2014 - 8:19am

After nearly a year of debate about the design of a monument in Leif Hanson Memorial Park, the Kenai City Council will hear from the public for the first time during tonight’s meeting.

One month after the park memorial was installed last summer, creator Scott Hammond received word that some city council members had raised concerns to administration about a cross displayed on the statue. The 12-foot monument shows a soldier kneeling in front of a cross with the inscription, “Never Forgotten.”

Kenai resident Bob Myles, a member of the National Veterans of Foreign Wars Committee, will give a 10-minute presentation to the city council addressing the complaints from his perspective. Myles, who served six years in the Marine Corps and fought in Vietnam, said he expects to see a large turnout of veterans at the meeting.

“The symbol does not represent religion, it is a memorial tomb for a fallen soldier,” he said. “I do not want it changed and I have talked to a number of people who have the same view as me.”

Kenai city council member Terry Bookey said he heard from a couple citizens last summer who were concerned about the statue as a potential liability to the city. Relating to the separation of church and state, Bookey said he was made aware of a similar memorial monument with a cross was proposed in Lake Elsinore Calif. The city was threatened with a lawsuit and eventually prohibited the statue from being built.

Bookey and council member Ryan Marquis brought the concerns from the public to the attention of city administrators and city attorney Scott Bloom. Bookey said he asked if the city would be open to a liability because of the depiction of a cross on the monument.

“As a council we have to look out for city not based on what our personal beliefs are, but for what is best for city as whole,” Bookey said. “Right now the monument is not an agenda item and has not been discussed by council.”

Hammond, owner of Metal Magic, said the council members concern of a religious symbol on city property is hypocritical. The City of Kenai has the Russian Orthodox Church on its seal, he said.

Hammond said the design is in respect to the Vietnam War veterans and the cross is recognized as a memorial tomb for fallen soldiers. When asked by city administration if he would compromise and consider moving the statue to in front of the VFW building, refused because it was built specifically for the memorial park, he said.

Hammond said he has contacted the Organization of American Center for Law and Justice, which deals with the separation of church and state issues. Because the primary effect of the cross is a soldier grave marker, he said they ruled there was nothing unconstitutional and it was acceptable on public property.

Hundreds of thousands of graves are marked with a cross all over the country, he said. Despite the concerns raised from council, he said he hasn’t heard any complaints about his monument.

“Not to be an eccentric artist but I believe it has the right to be there,” he said. “It’s not like I built a 12-foot cross. It is obvious what it is.”

Hammond said he will attend the council meeting but doesn’t plan to speak unless any council members have a question for him. During the whole process, he said he invited the two council members who raised the issue to talk with him but he has not heard from them.

“They would rather have the issue go away, but I refuse,” he said. “If we don’t deal with it now, sooner or later the community will have to make a decision. Let the chips fall where they may I am prepared to fight for it.”

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TheKenaiKid
126
Points
TheKenaiKid 03/19/14 - 01:07 am
3
7
Two peas in a pod

Mssrs Bookey and Marquis should by all means continue looking for problems where none exist while they've still got the chance. My guess is voters won't soon forget this odd and misguided attempt to jump on the bandwagon of reactionary liberalism.

Suss
3068
Points
Suss 03/19/14 - 06:43 am
3
6
American Legion or VFW building?

The VFW building is in Soldotna, so I hope someone did not suggest the memorial be sent to a different town. The headline for the printed Clarion is calling for attention by declaring "Leif Hanson(sic) religious symbol up for debate". A cross is not only used by Christians. Crosses were used before Christ and Christianity. Even a child's dead pet turtle can have a popsicle stick cross. The local Soldotna atheist lawyer should be a great source for quotes on when a cross crosses the line and offends his particular atheistic aesthetics. Let those that object state their objection. There is no there, there. The positive outcome one could hope for is more attention to the fallen soldier, but instead I fear that will be overshadowed by petty personal attacks and political grandstanding by those that would seek to benefit from this non-issue.

FreeAlaskan
11
Points
FreeAlaskan 03/19/14 - 08:26 am
7
3
Actually there is a problem.

KenaiKid, your response is the definition of reactionary redneck conservatism. Why not try and be more middle ground than a right wing Zombie.
Suss, the comparison of cross having different meanings goes another way too. Swastika had a different (religious) meaning before the Nazis, but I'm sure you would have a whole litter of puppy's if someone placed a swastika at a military memorial. You would claim that it is a Nazi symbol and nothing else.
You Christians assume that all military men and women are "Christian". Not true by a long shot. You people lack empathy for others and take the stance that your way to mourn is the only "right" way. You need not litter everyone's public space with your symbols. Snit your churches and horrid SBS signs enough? Grow up and stop forcing your fairy tails on society.

Localmrs
133
Points
Localmrs 03/19/14 - 08:50 am
3
7
Removal of Religious Symbols Will Recognize Secularism

Our men and women serving in the military make tremendous sacrifices, and put their lives on the line, to defend the freedoms that our Constitution ensures. The cross displays are not only appropriate, but constitutional as well. In fact, according to a recent Supreme Court decision, the Constitution forbids the type of “relentless and all-pervasive attempt to exclude religion from every aspect of public life.” The cross – a historic symbol of sacrifice – must remain.

RyanMarquis
52
Points
RyanMarquis 03/19/14 - 10:04 am
8
1
TheKenaiKid

TheKenaiKid,
Would you prefer I no longer pass along concerns that are presented to me by citizens, or should I only respond to citizens that have the most popular views?

TheKenaiKid
126
Points
TheKenaiKid 03/19/14 - 10:43 am
2
7
Must...not...respond...

FreeAlaskan, you, sir, have no idea what my political beliefs are. However, your decision to stoop to name-calling by the ninth word of your illogical response allows me to infer much more about your character than you have about mine. In all truth, I'm far more liberal on most issues than just about anyone in this town. And frankly, I have no love for politicians who want to force their religious ideas down our throats. But that's not the case here. The Constitution does not say any and all religious symbolism and expression should be barred from all public space. It says Congress shall make no act establishing a state religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. I fail to see how a small, symbolic cross on a public monument designed to honor war veterans does either.

The issue here is a pair of local politicians who watched too much Jon Stewart one night and decided to create controversy where none previously existed. I merely pointed out the fact that, in a democracy, the people are free to choose their leaders and to decide those leaders' fitness for office based on the decisions they make while in power. These two right and honorable council members will have to stand by their decision to speak out on this matter, and it would be a shame if they turned and ran under the cover of "we were just trying to protect the city's future interests." That's a straw dog, and straw dogs don't hunt.

Finally, a pointer...although you seem to fancy yourself quite the enlightened chap, the use of terms such as "you people" and your odd decision to bring Nazi imagery into the debate does little to advance the cause of those few of us here on the Peninsula trying to espouse moderate, progressive, open-minded positions. It's an uphill battle in this hotbed of Bird-brained religious fanatics, climate change deniers and Second Amendment literalists, and you're not exactly pulling your own weight in the rhetoric department. You don't have to shut up, but please learn some manners and tact the next time you decide to enlighten us with your hateful, prejudiced opinions.

Wouldn't hurt your cause to consult a dictionary, either, before you start sending off your artfully-crafted treatises to the good folks over at Slate and Mother Jones.

Norseman
2843
Points
Norseman 03/19/14 - 10:37 am
7
1
Being a veteran myself I am

Being a veteran myself I am pleased to see memorials honoring our fellow soldiers. However, I do not believe in any public funds ever to be used when any type of a religious symbol is visible.

I agree with what freealaskan stated, that not all military men and women are christians. I am a veteran and am not a christian.

I agree that an individual with his or her own money has the right to build, display, or promote whatever their personal beliefs may be. I do want public money spent in a way that does not recognize any form of religion.

TY Mr Marquis for representing your constituents, even when it comes to volatile and perhaps emotional topics.

TheKenaiKid
126
Points
TheKenaiKid 03/19/14 - 10:41 am
3
6
Mr. Marquis

By all means pass on any and all concerns you might have. However, I suggest you be up-front about your motivations rather than hiding behind these supposed constituents. If you've got a problem with the memorial, just say so. Taking an unpopular opinion and arguing for it is the mark of a strong leader. How about this: Do you personally believe the monument should be altered to remove the cross?

RyanMarquis
52
Points
RyanMarquis 03/19/14 - 10:55 am
7
1
TheKenaiKid

The thing is, TheKenaiKid, is that I have never argued an opinion or an outcome. I was presented some information from constituents, concerned that there might be a legal issue surrounding the monument. I passed that information on to the City Attorney and City Manager. The Council hasn't taken any action on it, nor had any discussions about it.

As far as your question, I'm honestly not sure. I'll wait for feedback and recommendations from the City Manager and City Attorney; I feel that this is in the Administration's court currently.

TheKenaiKid
126
Points
TheKenaiKid 03/19/14 - 11:10 am
3
4
A simple 'yes' or 'no' would suffice

The difference between a statesman and a politician is the former speaks out for what he believes is right — even when espousing an unpopular opinion — while the latter seeks guidance from the prevailing political winds. I thank you for your answer; you've made your position abundantly clear. I'll enjoy watching this interesting debate as it moves forward. And good luck in the next election. I haven't made a decision on who I'll support, but I'll be watching this debate closely to see which politicians speak candidly; that's far more important to me than any particular issue. Good day to you, sir. We should all be thankful to live in such an open society in which debate and the free exchange of ideas is encouraged and welcomed — no matter which gods we choose or choose not to pray to.

RyanMarquis
52
Points
RyanMarquis 03/19/14 - 11:25 am
6
1
Thanks. I respect your desire

Thanks. I respect your desire to have political leaders that are black and white in all of their views. I used to feel like that was possible before, too. However, I've begun to learn how much gray area exists in politics. I have to balance my personal feelings with reality, which doesn't always look pretty. While serving, there have been issues that I've wanted to take a stand on for the sake of upholding my principles, but oftentimes you realize that that can come at great cost.

In the case of Lake Elsinore, mentioned in the article, that city spent time, money, and effort fighting to keep their monument only to have the courts decide it couldn't be installed. If this is ever an issue that I have to make a decision on, levels of risk and estimated costs are things that I'll be considering and I'll do my best to balance those with what I feel the citizens want to see. I just don't have enough information to gauge those factors at this time, so I'm unable to give you an unequivocal Yes or No answer--as much as I'd like to. Personally, with what I currently know, I do not think it's in the best interests of the City to alter the monument. There might be other options that are worth considering that do more than nothing, but less than alteration or removal.

Finally, regarding the next election: I don't have any current plans to run for re-election or for another office. I've got more than a year before I have to make that decision.

Perhaps you'll consider running.

Localmrs
133
Points
Localmrs 03/19/14 - 12:01 pm
2
6
Activist Humanist Council Members?

https://m.facebook.com/events/783199635040752
Both council members were invited to a humanist group that had a recent meeting in the public library. Why is it ok for secularists to use public space? Maybe these council members are supporting their own secular agenda along with the handful of distraught citizens over a tiny little cross.

RyanMarquis
52
Points
RyanMarquis 03/19/14 - 11:34 am
2
0
Localmrs

I don't have any control over what I'm invited to on Facebook. I declined the invitation, if that matters.

Localmrs
133
Points
Localmrs 03/19/14 - 12:00 pm
1
6
Secularism IS a Religion!

Perhaps it is merely circumstantial that you both would be invited to a humanist meeting. It raises a red flag that you won't just come out and say what you really think of this. Regardless, you are on the wrong side of history. How far do you want to take this? Shall we strip the crosses from Arlington National Cemetery? Opening the floor to pointless anti-religious bigotry is most likely going to cost you your seat. I hope it's worth it.

rwhobby
196
Points
rwhobby 03/19/14 - 01:55 pm
1
4
Wow

So we are going to waste money and time on a Memorial that represents veterans of men and women in the Armed Forces. I am a veteran and I have no problem with it, next you goofy people want to change the City of Kenai seal because of the Russian Orthodox cross on it. I say leave it like it is, or going to the stupid side, that all crosses on all builds be removed because somebody will be offended by driving by on the road. Stop waste time and money on stupid stuff!

corinnep
241
Points
corinnep 03/19/14 - 02:50 pm
2
0
Publicity Stunt?

This article is missing some information. Did the City pay for the memorial? If so, did the Council approve the design?

How does it work, can anyone put a memorial at Leif Hanson park? Do they have to get permission from the City to do that? Can the City veto what someone wants to put up?

I don't think it is unreasonable for a City Council member to forward a citizen's concerns to the city manager. The attacks on Terry Bookey and Ryan Marquis by KenaiKid (Duane Bannock) and localMrs are unjustified.

It looks to me from the article like the artist, Scott Hammon, is the one who is stirring up the pot. How did this get blown up into front page news - is this a publicity stunt or something?

Raoulduke
2631
Points
Raoulduke 03/19/14 - 03:15 pm
3
0
The Cross

No the Cross does NOT mean sacrifice.The cross is a symbol of the CHRISTIAN religions.Not a memorial for a fallen soldier as stated in this article.Like the Star of David is the symbol of the Jewish faith.The Moon Crescent is the symbol of Islam.Then again God is a BELIEF. God is not a FACT.Religion is the ceremonial practice of worship to a belief.If this is not so.Then there would be one sect in all religions. I am a combat veteran,and am offended by a religious symbol being included in a veterans memorial.Everyone in the world knows exactly what the Cross symbolizes. Since this memorial is to respect the veteran.Do it PROPERLY.

Localmrs
133
Points
Localmrs 03/19/14 - 03:19 pm
1
4
Not Attacks, Just the wrong side of history

Religious symbols and scripture are all over our national monuments. For a certain group to be so intolerant as to suggest a tiny cross should be removed is completely ludacris. Anyone who would threaten to sue over it is a anti-religious bigot. Our rich cultural history as a diverse nation should be celebrated rather than being forced into a politically correct utalitarian stripped away public space. A religious symbol does not mean it is endorsed by he government, rather it is an expression of a group of citizens that deserves equal footing amongst other monuments. The point here is that there are those so bigoted and intolerant that the mere sight of a cross makes their blood boil and they want all religion gone from public space, probably even private. Think just like them or you are a dogmatic fool. Well life isn't fair, this is a diverse nation, let's celebrate our differences and accept eachother rather than tearing eachother down. Life isn't fair and you can't please everyone. If the cross is removed, it will be a dark day an age for Kenai. Born and raised here and this is NOT the spirit of our people, to remove cherished symbols due to those who are intolerant.

dabannock
9
Points
dabannock 03/19/14 - 03:55 pm
2
0
Sorry corinnep....

...but when I post comments, I always use my real name. I'm not afraid of my comments. But I am honored that you think of me.
Duane Bannock

Suss
3068
Points
Suss 03/19/14 - 05:28 pm
3
0
Free Ink, publicity.

There still is no There, there! No one but the original persons that inquired about the cross have an issue with the cross. Let anyone speak their mind at the City Council meeting. So what, there in no need to get in an uproar over what is still a non-issue. Who stands to gain from creating noise about a piece of art? This is silly, so let the voices ring out. 15 minutes of fame, make this a claim to fame for the attention seeking individuals and then go on with the real business of running a city. There is no fight to be had.

Raoulduke
2631
Points
Raoulduke 03/20/14 - 10:10 am
1
1
National Cemetery

The Arlington National Cemetery have standardize headstones.There maybe a Cross,Star of David,or a Moon Crescent etched into the headstone.Not to be seen from afar.These etched symbols are placed for the INDIVIDUAL veteran.These Individual Veterans proclaimed their religious preference upon their enlistment,or induction into the service. The sight of a cross displays the Christian doctrine.Which would constitute favoritism towards a certain religious belief.Where is the Star of David,or the Moon Crescent to show non partiality. Yes! the memorial DOES violate our CONSTITUTION.Something I fought for.

Localmrs
133
Points
Localmrs 03/20/14 - 07:28 pm
0
0
Of course Christianity is culturally a huge part of the founding

Chrisitanity IS and WAS a huge influence for the founding of our country. I know some would like to strip that from our history books. Those who wish to remove all hint of religion from the public space are just as extreme as those who wish everyone to be forced to submit to a certain religion. You have twisted and misinterpreted separation of church and state so much so that our forefathers are rolling in their graves. We aren't going to agree on this.

Raoulduke
2631
Points
Raoulduke 03/20/14 - 08:10 pm
1
1
Originality

One must remember the bottom line. God is a BELIEF,not a FACT.So work from this direction,and it should make sense.What I see of this monument is.The artist used a rear window sticker as his template.You know the one that has some figure looking at,or kneeling by a cross.I can not be the only person that sees that.He only replaced those figures with figures of soldiers.Not much true creativity in that.
If it were literature.Plagiarism would be the cry.

Localmrs
133
Points
Localmrs 03/20/14 - 08:29 pm
1
1
Rude Raoulduke

You are being blatantly disrespectful and rude. I don't care what the monument looks like. It obviously meant enough for a bunch of veterans to go in an speak at the council meeting. Taking religious things down HURTS more people in the long run. I know that God is a fact. If you choose not to believe that is your business. If you want to live your life they way you want you are free to do so. It's a little cross, practice some tolerance.

Randy
6
Points
Randy 03/20/14 - 08:39 pm
2
0
What is the Origin of the Symbol of the Cross?

History shows that the cross was used centuries before Christ. For example, in the British Museum is a statue of the Assyrian king Samsi-Vul, son of Shalmaneser. Around his neck is an almost perfect Maltese cross. On an accompanying figure, that of Ashur-nasir-pal, is a similar cross.

The ancient Greek goddess Diana is pictured with a cross over her head, in much the same way the "Virgin Mary" is represented by many medieval artists. Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, is often pictured wearing a headdress adorned with crosses. Different types of crosses were used in Mexico centuries before the Spaniards arrived. The Egyptians used cross symbols in abundance, as did the Hindus.

The surprising thing is that the Christian use of the cross did not begin until the time of Constantine, three centuries after Christ. Archaeologists have not found any Christian use of the symbol before that time. According to one writer (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, article "Cross"), the cross as a "Christian" symbol was taken directly from the pagans.

The New Testament does not specifically describe the instrument upon which Christ died, though Acts 5:30; 10:39; and 13:28-29 refer to it as a "tree." The Greek word xulon, translated "tree" in these verses, can mean a stick, club, tree, stake, or other wooden articles.

There is absolutely no evidence that God's true church ever used the cross symbol for any purpose. Nowhere does the Bible command its use. It surely would if God expected this of Christians.

Raoulduke
2631
Points
Raoulduke 03/21/14 - 11:31 am
1
0
Content

A group of MEN at the Council of NICEA controlled .What books were to be placed in the Bible.Centuries after the death of Jesus.So! Man wrote the bible.Not a god as most Christian Leaders would have you believe. The first symbol of the Christians was a fish.The cross came after the political execution of Jesus by the Romans.

Raoulduke
2631
Points
Raoulduke 03/21/14 - 11:55 am
1
0
A Fact?

Localmrs
You Believe that the bible is a fact.Is the world only 6500 years old as believed by some Christian sects?You see.You have a faith,and belief to be a fact.I am glad for you. The religious right has been for years trying to circumvent the Constitution's separation of Church,and State.Something I want to stay intact. Thus my opposing the monument. The story(TALE) of creationism not based on any fact, or evidence,but a faith.We all are carbon based,and being such.We live,die,decompose,and turn to dust.Just like all other living creatures.The notion of "Life after Death,or Everlasting Life". Just think about how INSANE that sounds.I am not being rude.I believe.I am being practical.My comments may not be agreed by you,But I stand by them.

Localmrs
133
Points
Localmrs 03/21/14 - 02:29 pm
0
3
atheism, humanism, secularism are all personal worldviews

Who is to say that all things sponsored by the government should be completely secular? This is a worldview where one does not subscribe to a higherpower. Turn the tables, if the government only endorses those who do not have a religion or believe in a higher power, you are leaving out the billions of people with faith. The government is of the people, by the people and for the people. Let's represent everyone in the public space freely. The formers of humanism called it a religion. Then when it was not politically expediant they tried to declassify it as a religion for "free exercise clause purposes." Why should secularism be the only worldview presented in public space? That would show favoritism towards it. If you think you are superior beings an religion is unfit for public space, that is bigotry.

Norseman
2843
Points
Norseman 03/21/14 - 07:13 pm
2
0
If it would have been a

If it would have been a religious symbol other than christian, you all would be having a conniption fit.

hence the word hypocrites is appropriate.

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
-- Stephen Roberts

Localmrs
133
Points
Localmrs 03/21/14 - 09:35 pm
0
0
Free in Christ

Why are atheists so consumed with telling Christians they dismiss their faith? I respect your right to choose to live how you would like and what you believe is your choice. Why don't you respect those who are different from you and just live your lives? You just want to argue argue argue- no acceptance there. So much for free thought.

Proverbs 9:10
Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

Jeremiah 29:13
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Romans 1:20
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Ephesians 4:18
They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

Acts 2:38
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

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