Memorial honoring fallen police officers removed after reference to 'Lord' sparks controversy

A South Carolina police monument was changed to remove religious language after a resident protested it shouldn't be on public property. |

A memorial honoring fallen police officers in Tega Cay, South Carolina, has been removed amid controversy stemming from city leaders’ decision to remove the word “Lord” from the monument. 

The memorial, placed outside the Tega Cay Police Department earlier this month, contains a prayer often called “The Officer's Prayer.” After some complained the religious words were offensive, city leaders covered over three references to the "Lord” on the stone. 

However, the move sparked outrage among the community, prompting the city to remove the monument altogether. 

“We have received many comments, both locally and nationally, in response to the monument at the Tega Cay Police Station,” the city of Tega Cay posted on social media. “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.”

“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. 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.”

On the front of the memorial, donated by a civic group, was a reference to Matthew 5:9 from Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount, which says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

The back of the stone read: "Lord, I ask for courage. Courage to face and conquer my own fears, courage to take me where others will not go...Give me Lord, concern for others who trust me and compassion for those who need me. And please Lord, through it all, be at my side."

Tega Cay resident Dan Dunn protested at a July city council meeting, arguing religious wording and references shouldn’t be included on a public monument in front of the police station, the Herald Online reported.

“Public grounds and public services should remain secular and neutral for all members of the community — all members — so they should feel welcome here,” Dunn said, adding that the religious references make the city seem exclusionary and biased.

But after the city painted over the word “Lord” in multiple places and also removed the Bible verse reference on the front of the stone, the city’s Facebook page was flooded with hundreds of comments from those outraged by the decision. 

S.C. State Rep. Bruce Bryant, R-York, who retired as York County Sheriff in 2017 after 20 years in office and 44 years in law enforcement, said he was “disappointed” in the decision.

“Law enforcement is a calling, a calling for men and women by God to protect the communities they serve. These principles of courage and faith are what this great state and nation were founded upon,” he said, according to the Herald.

Scripture, Bryant said, is meant to show the unity of spirit and faith that the public has with police officers.

“There would not be a need for law enforcement officers if the Ten Commandments were followed,” Bryant said. “But they are not. That’s where police officers, the bravest and most courageous, come in. To help their fellow man under God.”

U.S. Congressman Ralph Norman called the move “sad.”

“Our creator gave us our God-given rights,” he said in a Facebook video. 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.”

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a 40-foot tall cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, that was meant to honor World War I soldiers does not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution and thus could remain at the public property.

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