Hurricane Memorial Worries ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana is unhappy with plans for a memorial to be located in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, honoring the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The memorial would be a well-lit 13-foot by 7-foot stainless-steel cross strategically mounted near the shoreline of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet at Shell Beach. The cross and accompanying stone monument, listing the names of the 129 parish residents who died in the hurricane, are earmarked for what the parish says is private land and are to be financed with donations, according to parish president Henry “Junior” Rodriguez.

A letter was sent in July by the Louisiana ACLU executive director Joe Cook explaining that the government promotion of a patently religious symbol on a public waterway is a violation of the Constitution’s call for the separation of church and state, reports the Associated Press.

Rodriguez said, however, that he sees nothing improper about the memorial. “The memorial is being coordinated by a group of volunteers on their own time, and no public money is going to the project that will be on private land,” stated Charlie Reppel, Rodriguez’s chief of staff. “The committee members are all volunteers, including me. We are putting in a lot of unpaid overtime.”

While the ACLU thinks a memorial to the storm and its victims is “clearly appropriate,” said Cook, St. Bernard’s is “still all very questionable. I think there is official government involvement with the endorsement and advancement of this clearly religious symbol.”

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