Vandal Attempts to Blow Up Oregon Memorial Embroiled in Church-State Controversy

An attempt was recently made to vandalize a war memorial at an Oregon park at the center of a church and state controversy with an improvised explosive device.

An unknown individual detonated the IED near the memorial, located at Mingus Park in the City of Coos Bay, sometime late night between last Thursday and last Friday.

Rodger Craddock, city manager for Coos Bay, told The Christian Post that police are still trying to apprehend the vandal.

"As to the investigation it is ongoing and no arrests have been made at this time," said Craddock, who also provided CP with a press release from the Coos Bay Police Department.

"A records check showed that North Coos 911 received several reports of a loud noise in the area of Coos Bay City Hall and Mingus Park. Police officers responded to that area and were unable to find anyone in the area or anything out of ordinary," reads the CBPD release in part.

"The Police Department is encouraging anyone with information on this explosion or who may have seen anything suspicious in the Mingus Park area between 11:00pm on 08/22/13 and 1:00am on 08/23/13 to please call the Coos Bay Police Department at 541-269-8911 or Coos Stop Crime at 541-267-6666."

Placed in the park in 1972 and dedicated to those who served in the Vietnam War, the memorial recently came under fire from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation for having a cross as its primary symbol.

In February, the FFRF sent a letter of complaint to the Coos Bay City Council expressing to having the religious symbol on public property.

According to the City, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also sent a complaint to Coos Bay demanding the removal of the memorial from Mingus Park.

In April, a meeting was held to get public comment on the memorial. City council would eventually turn to the Liberty Institute for legal advice.

After news of the explosion at Mingus Park gained headlines, the Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Institute released a statement denouncing the vandalism.

"Liberty Institute will not be intimidated. We will not back down when it comes to honoring the First Amendment, and we will continue to assist the City of Coos Bay in any way we can," said Sasser.

"We unfortunately are now to the point where explosive devices are being placed next to crosses; these people will stop at nothing to intimidate communities to tear down their veterans memorials."

In response to the news, the FFRF released a statement condemning the violent act but also denouncing the claims of some that the vandalism was ideologically-driven.

"We expressly do not accomplish that mission by inciting anyone to lawlessness - quite the opposite. We encourage members and citizens to stand up for the law - the First Amendment, which protects all of us, by engaging in educational activities," said the FFRF.

"Nor would we suggest or assume that those with whom we disagree are guilty of violence simply because we disagree ideologically. There are many right-wing Christian legal groups against whom we constantly battle, but all those conflicts occur peacefully, in court of law or public debates."

According to KVAL news, the attempted vandalism prompted the Coos Bay City Council to postpone a meeting regarding the constitutionality of the memorial.

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