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A War Memorial Sparks Controversy

OPB | Sept. 10, 2013 12:06 p.m. | Updated: Sept. 11, 2013 1:26 a.m.

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Courtesy of Jason Payne

A 42-year-old Vietnam War memorial in Coos Bay became the subject of a separation of church and state fight early this year, then it and a nearby chapel were attacked with small bombs. The monument was donated and placed in 1972, when the war was still on. Early this year, the city received a formal complaint (PDF) from the national group Freedom From Religion Foundation on behalf of a Coos County resident. The group threatened a lawsuit if the cross wasn’t removed.

city council meeting in April drew a crowd of nearly 300, with most everyone in attendance supporting the memorial. After this, the monument was vandalized several times and then a small bomb exploded against it, doing only superficial damage. That was enough to get the FBI involved and cancel a city council meeting. Then last week The Prayer Chapel caught fire. A bomb had been set but it failed to explode, instead it started the blaze. The police say there’s no evidence that the cases are connected, but the chapel had offered to house the monument.

The city hasn’t decided what to do with the cros but is being advised by the Liberty Institute, a conservative religious-rights group that regularly tangles with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Do you live in Coos Bay? Has your community faced a similar situation? What’s the best solution for the Mingus Park Vietnam War memorial?

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