The design for a proposed Veterans Memorial in Lake Elsinore that features a cross and Star of David may bring legal challenges.
Jason Torpy, president of Washington, DC-based Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, has submitted a letter to the Lake Elsinore city clerk and council members requesting the religious symbolism be removed from any proposed design.
The Nov. 7 letter, written “on behalf of military men and women who have served our country in all branches of service and all conflicts of our nation,” makes the request to remove religious symbolism and any “sectarian bias” from the proposed monument or any other future monuments that require city council approval.
“Make the legal choice that honors all our veterans,” the letter reads. “A simple change will still make for a wonderful monument to all veterans.”
Friday, a subcommittee comprised of city officials, local leaders and veterans, agreed to submit to City Council a final design proposal for a granite Veterans Memorial slated to be erected at the entrance of the city-owned Diamond Stadium.
The city gave the go-ahead earlier this year to pay for a memorial, but first asked that a subcommittee be formed to come up with a design and location for the monument.
Coming into Friday’s meeting, the subcommittee had honed in on a design by Sun City Granite Monuments and Memorials that depicted a soldier kneeling in front of a cross, but after discussion it was agreed the Star of David should also be added to the project.
According to Justin Carlson, management analyst for the city, during Friday’s meeting 17 people addressed the subcommittee, with just four rallying for a design modification.
“There was strong support for the design. In addition, a petition was submitted with 75 signatures that support the cross design,” Carlson said.
But Torpy says the city should follow precedent laid out by the country’s Founding Fathers.
“Conservative and Christian veterans may advocate for a Christian memorial and viscerally denounce the voices of reason who point to the Constitution and the diversity of our military. Council members should remember that they have been put in this difficult and actionable position by Christian special interests. Prove that this memorial isn't about religion. Don't be strong-armed by special interests.”
The City Council must now decide whether to approve or deny the design featuring the two religious symbols. The large-scale monument is expected to cost city taxpayers approximately $46,000.
Torpy contends the legal center of the Washington, DC-based American Humanist Association has also challenged the monument. Click here for a plea to Lake Elsinore City Council from a local veteran requesting the religious symbolism be removed from the monument.
The city is expected to discuss the issue during an upcoming city council meeting. The agenda for the next city council meeting, Nov. 13, has not yet been posted.
Click here for more about legal challenges to these types of monuments.