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Lewis Lubka, Published May 29 2010

Veteran misreads his rights

Here’s another response to John McGovern’s letter to the editor in which he claims that being a veteran gives him the right to ignore the Constitution.

I am an honorably discharged parachute rifleman who served in the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II. I also happen to be a Freethinker. FYI, the only way a person could get into the airborne was to volunteer (in addition to meeting the physical requirements, of course).

McGovern, who does not live in our fair city, says he wants a symbol of his religious beliefs imposed on all the diverse beliefs of our residents. He wants the Ten Commandments monument to continue to be displayed on public property. I can’t figure out how having been in the service gives him the right to override the constitutional separation of church and state.

Furthermore, he says Freethinkers should drop the lawsuit against the monument and instead get involved in activities that benefit the community and visit the veterans hospital. The Freethinkers have assisted at the Food Pantry and will continue to do so. I visit the veterans hospital for medical checkups as I have a service-connected disability. OK?

The separation of church and state is a principle that has differentiated the U.S. from many countries that have a state religion. As Americans, we have freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Fargo City Hall property is not the place for a Ten Commandments monument, or a Quran monument or a Hindu religious symbol or an animist fetish or the great Manitou, or any other religious symbol, for that matter.

Since McGovern does not live in Fargo, he might not be aware that the Fargo City Commission unanimously voted to have the monument removed and placed on private property. This drove religious zealots to organize a signature campaign to keep the monument. One of the arguments for leaving the monument on public property is that it is not a religious symbol but something traditional. We have a video that shows people praying at the monument while collecting signatures, so it’s religion and tradition.

After the petitions were submitted to the City Commission, they took another vote and four to one reversed the decision to remove the monument. Apparently concern about displeasing the petition signers trumped the principle of separation of church and state. In our country, if you want to do something that the Constitution does not allow, you have to go through the process of a constitutional amendment. Just voting to get around the Constitution is not the American way.

Entangling government with religion is a no-no, and just because someone served in the military, as millions of Americans have done, does not give them the right to violate the principles upon which our country was founded and which have made it great. To me, upholding our Constitution is a major reason for wearing the uniform.