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The Tentacle


July 29, 2002

Lincoln Set The Precedent We Should Follow

David 'Kip' Koontz

Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech after the Battle of Gettysburg.

In this speech, President Lincoln said: "We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting place of those who here gave their lives that the nation might live."

He continued: "But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men living and dead who struggled here consecrated it far and above our power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.that we here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain - that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom - and that governments of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Many thought it a rather bland and insignificant speech when delivered. Yet it still resonates today.

While the text itself is stirring the underpinnings of what Mr. Lincoln said are as applicable today as they were when he penned them.

Frederick is struggling as to what to do with a monument of the Ten Commandments that sits in what is commonly called Memorial Park.

Memorial Park is actually, according to the deed that was given to "the citizens of Frederick County" called "Memorial Ground."

The deed of 1924 reads that it shall always be called "Memorial Ground" and it seems no one can actually say if the title of the space was actually changed to "Memorial Park" or whether it just came about through general discourse as the space has a pastoral park-like setting.

Be that as it may, the deed reads, that on the "Memorial Ground" there "shall be erected the monument provided by the citizens of Frederick County as a memorial to the young men and women, who enlisted and served in the military.of the service of the United States during the Great War of 1917 and 1918."

Sounds similar in nature as to what Mr. Lincoln did at Gettysburg.

The deed of the "Memorial Ground" goes on to read, ".reverently and at all times hereafter protect the mortal remains and the graves of those persons buried in said ground." for you see the land was already being used as a cemetery.

Talking to those who helped build the most recent memorial - to those who served in Vietnam, they say they unearthed remains during their construction - which proves to this day it is indeed a cemetery and thusly, "Memorial Ground."

The deed also dictated that a memorial be placed on the site that lists the names of those who were and those who still are interred on the site.

That monument stands next to the allegedly offensive Ten Commandment Monument.

One must take pause at the idea of a religious monument sitting on "Memorial Ground" which, as Mr. Lincoln did, also lets us not forget those who have served and died for our country.

You see the United States government has established the precedent of dedicating and maintaining "Memorial Grounds," so to speak, after President Lincoln created the national cemetery system in 1862.

The most well known, of course, is Arlington National Cemetery. But closer to home there is Antietam National Cemetery in Sharpsburg and Gettysburg National Cemetery in Gettysburg.

Actually, our government maintains 129 national cemeteries throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

Driving through the three mentioned above, crosses - clearly a recognized religious symbol, mark the graves of many a man or woman who served the nation.

Will the ACLU, as they have threatened Frederick, sue the federal government to remove those expressions of memorial?

Further, upon entering the Library of Congress - a national institution -one will see, if they look up into the rotunda, "great givers of law" one of which is Moses holding the Ten Commandments - the same item that is perplexing the ACLU in Frederick.

Additionally, the Ten Commandments are engraved into the doors of the very court that rules them unconstitutional if in anyway linked to a government - the Supreme Court of the United States.

Will the federal government be the ACLU's next victim due to those "offenses?"

It is time the more level heads prevail when it comes to the discussion of what is appropriate expression of religion or faith versus whether or not the government is saying "thou shalt practice this religion and only this one in this way and at all time forever and ever, amen."

Frederick's Memorial Ground, with its "offensive" Ten Commandments does not do that.

It simply follows in the path established by Abraham Lincoln as establishing grounds to remember those who served our nation.

Additionally, Frederick's Memorial Ground is indeed a cemetery.

The ACLU, however, has hunkered down and has given us until August 1 to remove the offensive marker or be sued.

This has given some the opportunity to make political hay when they should have been looking for viable solutions to keep the monument in its place.

The easiest thing to do would have been to deed the plot on which the monument sits to some other organization.

Some of our government officials - and remember if you will this is a joint City-County site - said that wasn't a good option.

A solution, but not good political drama, and they decreed they would fight the ACLU, in what would have simply been a contest of Frederick having very weak legs to stand on.

Now, at least, City Hall has come up with an option that at least give us some defense against the inevitable barrage of the "separation of church and state" argument that in this case really shouldn't fly.

An option that even those who earlier on championed the monument's immediate removal supports.

Unfortunately, some of the county commissioners do not seem to be inclined to sign on to plans that may actually help the cause, but to simply say "they want to fight because in their hearts they believe its right to keep it there" or some such nonsense that will promote the opposite effect of what they want.

City Hall's proposal is to make sure the site is clearly referred to as "Memorial Ground."

They want to rename it as well to call it an Historic City Cemetery and show its historical significance by showing that it was the original resting place of Barbara Fritchie and others from Frederick's historic past, including a former mayor.

They will establish it as an archeological site.

They hope to draft a resolution declaring that the Ten Commandment Monument is an appropriate religious symbol for a Christian burial ground.

They will point out the grounds contribute to the city's Historic District (it fronts on Bentz Street and thus is in the Historic District) by contributing open space of historic or scenic significance.

These are steps in the right direction and give us something to defend ourselves with when the ACLU bullies come at us.

While it is hoped that these steps will cause the ACLU to back off their threat to sue, it is somewhat doubtful they will, as it seems they are as eager to make their feeble point, as others are to fight them unprepared.

Plus, this resolution needs to have a public hearing and that can't happen until the evening of the August 1st - which is past the ACLU's deadline for removal.

We as Fredericktonians though must come out in support of this resolution as it gives us at least some ammunition if this does go to court so we fight the good fight well.

Thank goodness some level headedness has presided over this issue inside of City Hall.

Let us hope now that - as President Lincoln set forth for the nation- Frederick be allowed to memorialize our own as we see appropriate, correct and ultimately legal ways.



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