Removal of the word “Lord” from a gift to Tega Cay Police Department has set off a firestorm on social media. The painted over word wasn’t done by vandals.
A stone gifted by Tega Cay Women’s Club was installed earlier this month at the new police station, 7705 Tega Cay Drive. The monument included a Bible verse reference and the word “Lord.”
City officials received complaints about the religious part of the inscription, said Lt. James Parker of the Tega Cay Police Department. City officials discussed the inscription in a council meeting and the decision was made to take the religious inscriptions off both sides, Parker said.
Tega Cay Police Chief Steve Parker referred all other questions to Tega Cay city government officials.
City officials say complaints started with an email to the mayor from Tega Cay resident Dann Dunn, who spoke out against the monument wording at the July 15 Tega Cay City Council meeting. Dunn told Council he isn’t offended by religious references and is a church-goer.
“What I do have a problem with is religious references on government property, especially law enforcement,” Dunn said. “Public grounds and public services should remain secular and neutral for all members of the community — all members — so they should feel welcome here.”
The monument with religious references makes the city seem exclusionary and biased, Dunn said.
On the city Facebook post July 12 about the monument installation, comments voice favor and against the religious reference.
Council didn’t take an official vote, but members spoke with the police department and decided to take out the wording.
“We talked to our attorney about it and he said they’re probably going to sue you,” said Mayor David O’Neal, also a campaign leader for U.S. Congressman Ralph Norman in past runs. “He said we’d have to hire a lawyer and it might cost $30,000 to $50,000 to fight it, or you can just move the offensive language.”
Norman posted a Facebook video July 20 after a breakfast with Tega Cay and Fort Mill police departments standing in front of the memorial stone. He said “look what’s being marked out, the word “Lord.”
“Our creator gave us our God-given rights. The last time I checked it was one nation under God. To have this scratched out is sad, to say the least. That’s why we’re fighting in Washington, D.C., to put God back in public buildings like this, put God back in our schools. This is sad and never should happen.”
O’Neal said fighting the issue isn’t worth it when there are other uses of that money like the all-inclusive park.
“It’s not a Tega Cay city monument,” O’Neal said. “It’s a gift. It’s just not worth it.”
Charlie Funderburk, city manager, said the monument was delivered and installed July 12 as part of the Fallen Officer Memorial at the new police station. A scout working on his Eagle Scout rank installed it. The scout didn’t have anything to do with the wording.
“On the front of the monument was text that read, ‘Matthew 5:9’ which is often referred to as the Law Enforcement or Peace Keepers verse,” Funderburk said. “On the back of the monument is the Policeman’s Prayer. In the prayer the word ‘Lord’ appears three times.”
Funderburk emphasized there was no vandalism. Ideas for the design, he said, came from the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, DC.
“There was never an intent to offend anyone and show preference to one group over another,” Funderburk said. “The monument is still in place and still very beautiful.”
The religious references weren’t, he said, about picking sides.
“The City of Tega Cay and the Tega Cay Police Department do not hold any religion or person in a higher regard than another,” Funderburk said. “We respect and care for all citizens, regardless of what their faith may or may not be.”
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