McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

August 15, 2012

Removal of street signs with crosses-Church rep will present resolution to reverse decision

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — At the next meeting of the McAlester City Council a representative for a church association said he will present a resolution against the city’s decision to remove street sign silhouettes with soldiers kneeling before a cross.

“I’m on the agenda for the August 28 meeting,” said James Prince chairman of the Gaines Creek Association of Free Will Baptists.
City Manager Pete Stasiak said he had the silhouettes removed after he received a complaint and after checking city attorney Joe Ervin who said it would be a conflict of church and state. 
On Tuesday, Stasiak he did not recall who made the initial complaint to remove the silhouettes.
“That was months ago, Stasiak said. “I don’t remember who it was.”
Stasiak also said he had not seen the  resolution. 
Prince said he will present the resolution asking the city council to reverse the Stasiak decision to remove the silhouettes.
The association includes six Free Will Baptist churches including; New Hope, Fellowship, Canadian Shores, Stuart, Bethel and Tannehill.
The silhouettes were placed by the city and paid for by McAlester resident Bob Wallace.
 McAlester resident Bill Derichsweiler said he was given the silhouettes by Wallace after they were removed and he questioned the reason.
“I couldn’t believe the city took those silhouettes down,” Derichsweiler said.
Last month Wallace said he wasn’t happy with the city’s decision.
“I was upset and shocked ... we are in the Bible belt, this is a Christian nation; We’ve drifted so far away from Christian values.”
He said when the silhouettes were originally placed he worked with Stasiak and he went with city workers to each sign and placed the ones with crosses near the churches on Washington Avenue.
“I think it’s wrong of them to remove the signs. We are a strong Christian community.”
“It made me feel bad,” he said.
Meanwhile the resolution dated August 12, asks the McAlester City Council to reverse the city manager’s decision because removal discriminates against Christians.
A letter with the resolution from the association states;
“For several decades the one percent that oppose Christian values have worked very hard to impose their secular beliefs on the other 99.9 percent through our Legislative, Judicial and Executive branches.”
““In the last decade you might recall that the City of McAlester yielded to the unpopular pressure to remove a cross from its logo. Recently the City installed (silhouettes) depicting a US Military kneeling in silent prayer. By order of the city manager these...were removed supposedly so not as to offend anyone. Much could be said about that but I think you get the picture.”
The resolution states that because the silhouettes picture soldiers kneeling in silent prayer that they should be allowed. Because silent prayer is not a violation of the Constitution.
“The Gaines Creek Association of Free Will Baptists stand opposed to the removal of the “figurines”  depicting US Military kneeling in silent prayer...”
The resolution also asks the council to reverse the decision of the city manager for the will of the people.
The McAlester City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 28, at 6 p.m. at the McAlester City Hall, 28 E. Washington Avenue.
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Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.