January 2017 Church & State - January 2017

N.H. Town Plans To Restore Decalogue Monument To Park

  AU admin

A Ten Commandments monument in Somersworth, N.H., was restored to city property in November after being toppled by vandals.

The city hired a firm that specializes in stonework to replace the monument.

“They did an excellent job and were able to install the base and make a solid connection,” Public Works Director Mike Bobinsky told the Foster’s Democrat newspaper. Bobinsky said a special crane was used and reinforcement was added to the base. A curb was also put around the monument.

After the monument was knocked over, the council deliberated what to do with the religious code. Following a discussion in September, members voted 7-2 to restore the monument.

The 3,000-pound structure was originally erected in 1958 after being given to the city by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. It stood in front of the city hall until it was knocked over in August.

Mayor Dana Hilliard insisted that the monument can be legally displayed on public property, reported the newspaper.

“The city manager and I have worked out a plan which would further neutralize the monument thus ensuring that it would meet all future tests,” Hilliard said. “The plan includes … a historical sign outlining the history, role and purpose of the monument … and two flag poles.”

Hilliard insisted that his plan is “compliant within the frameworks of the First Amendment.”

But not everyone was convinced. Two councilors voted against restoring the monument. One of them, Jennifer Soldati, opined that adding flags doesn’t make the Ten Commandments less religious.

“I find that this notion that you can somehow put a document next to it and neutralize it has not been held up by the courts,” Soldati said. “Dem­ocracy is not about majority rule, it is the rights of the minority being protected against the tyranny of the majority. I understand the sentimentality, I get it. But I am a staunch believer in our Constitution and I do believe that we are in violation.”

Council member Nancie Cameron, who voted to retain the monument, argued that at the time it was erected, the city spent no money on the display. She asserted it could today been seen primarily in a historical context.

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