Freedom from Religion Foundation files complaint against two displays at Camden County Courthouse
"We love this painting. It represents a lot of people," said Barb Stamper as she looked at a painting of the September 11th, 2001 attacks that is displayed in a Camden County Courthouse hallway. "It was a tragedy. And the complaints against it? I think you out to be shipped to another country that believes like you do."
The painting features a New York Firefighter and a young girl looking at two steel beams from the World Trade Center, which is shown faintly in the background sky. The beams form a cross, and above the cross is painted with the words "September 11, 2001."
The Wisconsin based
filed a complaint against the county after a local member wrote to them, wanting the painting removed.
"This is something that's been here for quite a while, and I don't think we should have to take it down just because of others' opinions," said Melanie Thompson
However, Camden County Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty says the painting is not coming down.
He cites a federal court ruling in 2013 which said the Ground Zero Cross was allowed to remain on display at the 9/11 Museum because there's no evidence the display of the historic artifact entangles the government with religion.
Hasty said the county's legal counsel feels that ruling fits with the painting, too.
"It's clearly a reference to the events that took place on September 11, 2001, and we don't regard it, nor has the federal government regarded it as an endorsement of any particular faith," Hasty said.
The group also filed a complaint for another photo in the courthouse, which was hanging on the wall in County Clerk Rowland Todd's office.
It's a depiction of the American Flag with a bible verse from the Gospel of John.
"It was located right here, and to comply with the department of Labor standards, we moved it over into a private area," Hasty said.
The private area is still part of the office, but is not in the main public lobby.
Commissioner Don Williams says county employees are encouraged to practice and observe their individual faith, even if they aren't religious.
"We have a responsibility not to promote any one single religion. But as county commissioners, we have the responsibility to protect the religious liberty of our 300 plus employees, and we intend to do that the best we can within the bounds of the law," Williams said.