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Statue of Limitations

Rumor: A North Carolina town was forced to remove a statue of a praying soldier from a public memorial.

Published Jan 9, 2015

Claim:   A North Carolina town was forced to remove a statue of a praying soldier and other Christian symbols from a public memorial.


Example:   [Collected via email, January 2015]

Has a North Carolina town been made to remove a statue of a
praying soldier at a veterans memorial?


Origins:   On 6 January 2015, a longstanding dispute in King, North Carolina, involving a statue of a soldier praying (and other Christian symbols) at a public memorial was resolved. The King City Council voted 3-2 to approve a settlement agreement in regards to the lawsuit Steven Hewett v. the City of King.

According to a local news source, city council members struggled with the decision to remove the praying soldier statue, but mounting legal costs associated with defending the memorial created an untenable legal situation:

According to a press release issued by the city, King had already incurred more than $50,000 in legal fees and costs and estimated that litigation costs would have approached $2 million, exceeding the city's $1 million insurance coverage. The city was also facing the loss of that insurance coverage if the matter proceeded to trial, according to the release.

The dispute over the religiously-themed statue began in 2012 with a lawsuit filed by Hewett against King:

Hewett, a U.S. Army veteran, sued the city in November 2012 in U.S. District Court in Greensboro, alleging that King officials had violated his constitutional rights by allowing the Christian flag to fly at the Veteran's Memorial in the city's Central Park. Hewett asked a federal judge to bar the city from allowing the display of the Christian flag at the memorial, from displaying the statue of the soldier kneeling at a cross and from sponsoring religious activities at events at the site.

In July, U.S. District Court Judge James A. Beaty Jr. barred the city from promoting Christianity at ceremonies but ruled that the Christian flag and statue issues could go to trial.

King City officials explained the decision was a fiscal one, with Charles Allen, a King city councilman, commenting:

I can't put that financial burden on the city. I'm not voting my conscience but on financial sense.

In summary, it's true the city of King was sued (by an individual citizen, not the federal government) over the praying soldier statue and the display of Christian flags, a factor that led to the removal of those elements from public space. However, no King city council members wanted to remove the memorial's Christian elements, and no court decision or governmental order required them to do so: the city opted not to fight the lawsuit and voted to remove the Christian elements due to concerns about the financial costs of contesting the lawsuit.

Last updated:   24 May 2015

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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