Oakwood has created a downtown war veterans memorial that features a Ten Commandments monument donated by a local resident.
The memorial at Main and Railroad streets, across from City Hall, also features a monument featuring the official seals of the armed services, two concrete benches and a flagpole.
“Since the memorial was erected in August, it has received overwhelming support from the local community,” City Manager Stan Brown said.
“Because we are honoring men and women who fought for God and country, the city of Oakwood is hopeful that this pair of monuments will be viewed as a positive symbol for the values that our country represent and stand for.”
Brown said local resident Wayne Strickland donated the monuments and the city has spent $1,411 toward the memorials.
“City expenses were for the flagpole and labor for placing the concrete,” he said.
The veterans monument doesn’t feature a U.S. Coast Guard seal, but “we plan to have that in place prior to Veterans Day,” Brown said.
The public display of religious documents, particularly the Ten Commandments, has long been a First Amendment debate in the U.S.
The issue especially caught fire in 2003, when Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore refused to remove the document from the state Supreme Court building. He eventually was removed from office by Alabama’s judicial ethics panel.
Closer to home, under a judicial order from U.S. District Court Judge William O’Kelley in Gainesville, Barrow County agreed in 2005 to remove a Ten Commandments display from its courthouse and pay $150,000 in legal fees to the person who sued over it.
The Georgia General Assembly passed a law in 2006 requiring eight other documents to be posted alongside the Ten Commandments to give them a historical context.
“We didn’t really have any reservations about putting (the Ten Commandments) out there,” Brown said, adding that city officials didn’t consult City Attorney Donnie Hunt on the matter.
Hunt, as well as Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Brown said that so far he has heard only widespread support for the display.
“There’s always somebody out there who will want to make an issue of it, but we haven’t run into that person yet,” Brown said.
Brown said the city was offered the monuments earlier in the summer. The city went about pouring the concrete for the memorial, which is near a newly completed downtown project involving new pavement on Railroad Street, brick crosswalks and new, wider sidewalks.
“Our intention is to have a dedication event on Veterans Day,” said Brown, himself an Air Force reservist who completed three tours in Iraq.
“Seeing some of the stuff they’ve done in Lula and, of course, there are different memorials in Gainesville, and we didn’t have anything like that in our area.”
Strickland said he considers the donation a move on the part of his family. The monuments were kept at his Mundy Mill Road business that closed earlier this year.
“I knew that Oakwood was building a little park and I asked them if they’d like to have it as a memorial, and they said they did,” he said.
Strickland has since driven by the site.
“I think it looks great,” he said. “It’s out there where people who are out walking can see it, so I think it’s in just the right place.”