City removes SC police memorial stone after 'Lord' controversy

City officials received complaints about the religious part of the inscription, sparking debate


By John Marks
The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.)

TEGA CAY, SC — Having upset both sides in a debate on religious inscriptions on a new police monument, Tega Cay removed the stone.

The Tega Cay Women’s Club earlier this month gifted city police a new monument at the new police station on Tega Cay Drive. The stone included a policeman’s prayer and Bible verse reference modeled after national monument.

Tega Cay resident protested at the July 15 city council meeting, saying religious wording and references shouldn’t be included on a public monument in front of the police station. Tega Cay painted over the word “Lord” in multiple places and also removed the Bible verse reference at the bottom on the front of the stone.

“At this time, we have removed the monument while we continue to seek a solution that expresses our unwavering support and gratitude to those who risk their lives every day for ours,” reads a statement from the city to The Herald late Thursday night. “We will continue to welcome feedback from our residents and seek further guidance from our legal team until we can find a viable solution for all concerned.”

The city’s initial decision to remove the “Lord” references was an attempt to compromise and avoid possible litigation.

In addition to social media, elected officials such as U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman and former county sheriff and state Rep. Bruce Bryant weighed in with their takes on the city’s action.

“We have received many comments, both locally and nationally, in response to the monument at the Tega Cay Police Station,” reads the city statement. “We attempted to find a compromise but failed as our community has further divided. In an attempt to find a resolution, we have upset parties on both sides of this issue and for that we are truly sorry. The City of Tega Cay’s intent from the beginning of this project was to recognize our current and fallen police officers. Without their courage, strength, dedication concern and compassion, as mentioned in the police officer’s prayer inscribed on the monument, our city would be a much different place.”

Less than 10 hours after the city posted on Facebook its decision to remove the monument, opinion has been swift, generating almost 400 comments.

Many opposed the city decision. Jessica Taylor posted voters will remember the “bunch of cowards” who aren’t representing the majority of their constituents come election time. Ed Davis posted “the world has gone crazy” and he’d like to see city residents vote on the issue. His voting precinct, he noted, is a church building.

Others thanked the city for removing the stone, or said they supported removing the religious references. Emma Boyd supported the change and said police work is a secular profession. Lori Carter thanked the city for listening to concerned residents, saying the government was founded on the division of church and state.

Mayor David O’Neal said Council and police leaders changed the wording to avoid expensive and needless litigation for a gift from a club to the police station.

Former Councilman Ron Kirby voiced his displeasure with changing and removing the monument.

“I have never before been so embarrassed in my life,” Kirby said. “It is boneless of our council to cow tail truly to a small few.”

He sees the issue as changing what the majority wants in favor of the few.

“When I got elected in 2004 former Mayor (Steve) Hamilton shared something I will never forget,” Kirby said. “You have to give fair time and listen to all concerned but you can’t make decisions in the best interest all for a few.”

The issue evokes strong opinion. On Monday, as news broke about the wording being changed on the monument, the York County Sheriff’s Office posted the full police officer’s prayer on its Facebook page. It didn’t mention the Tega Cay situation by name but sent out the prayer, which states the word “Lord” three times, to “all law enforcement officers across this great country.”

The post generated more than 100 comments and 260 shares since.

©2019 The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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