Bench with Religious Message Will Be Removed from Oil City Park
The final decision was announced at Thursday’s council meeting.
Council members voted to remove the bench during an executive session in November.
The American Atheists Legal Center (AALC) earlier requested the wording on the bench be changed, claiming that the display 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 original letter to Oil City Mayor William P. Moon dated November 3, 2016, centered on the “Tyrants Bench” and the engraved message of “Men Who Aren’t Governed By God, Will Be Governed By Tyrants.” AALC viewed it as a religious message.
The bench in question has been in the park for 13 years after being donated by the Oil City VFW Post 464 in 2003.
AALC will replace the bench with a new one containing wording agreed upon by both the VFW and AALC.
Oil City Councilman Isaiah Dunham says the new bench will be inscribed with wording that represents veterans.
“We aren’t disrespecting our vets,” said Dunham. “We are getting a new bench that will have a secular quote on it.”
Dunham says the current bench will be moved to the VFW after the new bench arrives.
Mayor Moon previously told exploreClarion.com that the cost of a court battle is something the city can’t afford.
“With our financial status, we decided we wouldn’t have the means to handle it legally, and it would probably have to go to the Supreme Court,” Moon explained.
There is no timeframe for the removal of the bench.
Ron Wilshire and Chris Rossetti also contributed to this article.
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