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Update on the Vietnam Memorial Decision
The City of Coos Bay will await the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a case involving the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, before the City Council resumes discussions regarding the status the Vietnam War Memorial in Mingus Park. While the case involves the constitutionality of legislative prayer, it’s believed that the Supreme Court may provide additional clarity on what has been characterized as active religious displays and passive displays, like memorial crosses, through its decision. It is anticipated that the Supreme Court will make their ruling by June 2014.
The Vietnam War Memorial was donated to the City and placed in the park in 1972 by Western Bank and the Bay Area Jaycees. On October 19, 2010, Landy Marshall a former member of the Bay Area Jaycees who helped construct and install the memorial appeared before the City Council and requested that the City rehabilitate the memorial as the finish had deteriorated over the years due to exposure to the weather. During the summer of 2011, City staff attempted to clean the memorial by pressure washing it. When the pressure washing failed to make any visible improvements, the City contracted with a local firm to rejuvenate the monument by pressure grouting a thin layer of grout over its exterior.
On February 7, 2013 the City received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation requesting the removal of the memorial as they believe that the presence of a cross on the memorial was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. In response, the Council held a meeting on April 2, 2013 for the purpose of obtaining public comments. The Council also invited the public to submit written comments on the matter. In addition, the City of Coos Bay retained the services of constitutional attorneys from the Liberty Institute to assess the constitutionality of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Mingus Park and to advise the City Council on its options regarding the memorial. As the issue is a matter of potential litigation, the results of the assessment was provided to the Council during a past executive session.
In addition to the letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the City also received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union also requesting removal of the memorial.
On August 23, 2013, an unknown person(s) vandalized the memorial with an improvised explosive device. On September 3, 2013 an unknown person(s) attempted to detonate an improvised explosive devise at the Prayer Chapel located at 186 W. Commercial Ave. which was a possible location for the memorial should it be moved. Both incidents are still under investigation and anyone with information on either incident is encouraged to call the FBI (Portland office) at (503-224-4181 or the Coos Bay Police Department at 541-269-8911 or Coos Stop Crime at 541-267-6666.