Secular Group Threatens Lawsuit Against Ohio Holocaust Memorial Over Star of David Symbol

A Wisconsin-based secular group has sent a letter to an Ohio city promising legal action should a recently approved Holocaust Memorial design be built at a government building.

Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison has sent correspondence to Columbus' Ohio Statehouse noting their opposition to the memorial over its inclusion of a Star of David symbol.

In a letter sent to those determining the design for the memorial last month, FFRF co-presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, argued that the Star of David in the winning design was too religious.

"I think that the Star of David is a religious symbol, and religious symbols, we have been told on several occasions, are not permissible on Statehouse grounds," wrote Barker and Gaylor.

"To align the State of Ohio with one religion and its sacred symbol - even a minority religion for a worthy memorial - would dishonor the truest protection our country has against a similar Holocaust on our shores: the precious constitutional principle separating religion from government."

Ohio's Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board approved a design Thursday for a $1.8 million privately funded Holocaust Memorial for the Ohio Statehouse.

The winning design was created by Daniel Libeskind, the architect behind the new World Trade Center and himself the son of Holocaust survivors.

Reportedly the first Holocaust Memorial for any U.S. Statehouse, Libeskind's design won the vote of everyone in the nine-member Board save Chairman Richard Finan, who voiced concerns over a possible church-state lawsuit.

Consideration of various designs, including some which lacked any religious symbols, had been going on for months up until this week.

The group Ohio Jewish Communities has overseen donations for the future memorial, with their mission statement laying out their desire to "create a memorial that would help legislators and visitors to The Statehouse understand not just the history of the Holocaust, but the fact that today we must stand against evil."

While Finan and the FFRF have voiced their opposition to the proposed memorial, others including many Jewish groups have rejoiced at the news.

Steve Freeman, director of legal affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement that the FFRF's claims of religious endorsement were invalid.

"Jews were forced to wear the star during the Holocaust. ... There's no denying the Holocaust was an attempt at genocide of the Jewish people," said Freeman.

"Certainly the Star of David is a religious symbol, but in this context, the reason they might be using it is not to endorse or promote Judaism."

While the memorial has been approved and a site at the statehouse grounds chosen, the expected date of completion has not yet been set.

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