Separation of Church and Trail
A granite monument sporting an engraved Bible scripture was recently installed on public property near Fort Worth’s Trinity Trails, and some folks aren’t happy about it. The monument was placed next to a new drinking fountain at the trailhead at Southwest Boulevard.
“It’s very impressive, but why on earth are they doing Christian biblical scripture on a public trail?” wondered a woman who walks on the trail regularly and called Static to complain. “I don’t believe in a governmental agency promoting a specific religion. That’s not what this country is based on. I’d like to know who did it and why they allowed it.”
Static went to have a look and talked to a cyclist who was resting near the fountain. The monument’s religious message didn’t bother the biker, but she dislikes spending taxpayer money on monuments when so much work is needed on city streets.
“If a private person or a church wants to [pay for it], that’s fine,” she said.
The engraved scripture is John 4:13: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling into eternal life.”
Religious-themed monuments in other parts of the country have spurred protracted legal battles. In Florida, the American Atheists were recently allowed to erect a granite monument on county property with quotes from secular figures, including group founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair. It sits next to a similar-sized monument featuring the Ten Commandments.
The monument on Trinity Trails involved no taxpayer money. A woman donated $6,000 for the new drinking fountain. The nonprofit Streams and Valleys allows private donors to inscribe a plaque of some sort whenever they donate money for benches or fountains. Oftentimes, the plaques honor loved ones. However, at least one other Christian-themed plaque is already in place along the trails.
“It’s been allowed in the past, and we felt like it would be all right to allow it this time as well,” said Valerie Jay, assistant director of Streams and Valleys.
However, no other religions are being discriminated against, she said.
“If someone wanted to donate a bench or a drinking fountain and wanted to put a scripture from the Koran, or a Hindu quote, or a Buddhist quote, it’s fine as long as it’s not inciting anyone,” she said.