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Tyrants Bench to Be Moved, Rededicated During July 3 Ceremony at Oil City VFW
VFW Commander Jason Reed announced that the much-talked about and debated bench will be placed at the Oil City VFW during a ceremony on Monday, July 3.
“It’s coming back home, and I can guarantee you, it won’t move from here,” Reed said.
Reed and around seven other VFW members and the Venango County Tea Party Patriots were working in the hot sun on Wednesday, June 14, to dig the footers for where the bench will be placed.
“Jim Aikens, of Franklin Granite, will pour the footers, and then we will set three of the four pieces,” Reed said. “Then, on July 3, we will have the bench escorted from Rocky Grove to our location.”
“Anyone that is interested in being part of the procession is welcome to come,” Reed said. “The Patriot Guard Riders are going to lead it.”
The staging for the procession will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, July 3, from the Rocky Grove Fire Hall. The escort begins at 5:00 p.m. and a short rededication ceremony will be held at the VFW at 6:00 p.m.
The Oil City VFW donated the bench to the city in 2003.
According to a previous article on explorevenango.com, the Oil City Council voted unanimously at an April 27 meeting to remove the Tyrants Bench from Justus Park. As per the Oil City VFW’s wishes, it will be returned to the VFW, in addition to another bench and a memorial.
The City of Oil City was first asked to remove the bench in a November 3 letter from the American Atheists Legal Center (AALC), which claimed the display likely violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”
The bench is inscribed with “Men Who Aren’t Governed By God Will Be Governed By Tyrants,” a quote attributed to William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania.
Nick Fish, the national program director of American Atheists, Inc., stated, “It is unfortunate that some still believe the ‘Tyrants’ statement on the memorial somehow celebrates all veterans, despite the fact that it disparages the atheists who have served our nation. Perhaps more troubling are those who acknowledge the disparagement but feel that this constitutional violation should have been tolerated rather than remedied. The city, however, must remain neutral on religious matters.”
“We are pleased that the city has resolved the constitutional violation but are disappointed that the VFW was not willing to work with us to replace the Tyrants Bench with one that represented all veterans,” Fish continued.
“As we have said since the beginning, the people of Oil City deserve a memorial that truly represents all veterans and the Tyrants Bench did not. Ultimately, though, the VFW is a private organization and can put any kind of memorial they like on their own property.”
Members from the community responded strongly while the city tried to decide if the case would be taken to court.
Ultimately, the potential cost of a lawsuit proved to be a factor the city couldn’t overlook.
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