OIL CITY, PA - The American Atheists Legal Center (AALC) has demanded that city officials in Oil City remove a bench in a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) memorial in Justus Park, simply because it contains a William Penn quotation which has the word "God" in it. Liberty Counsel has offered pro bono defense to Oil City mayor, William Moon, to keep the Tyrants Bench in place with the William Penn paraphrase remaining.
The AALC sent the city a letter incorrectly stating that the quotation on the bench "violates the Establishment Clause" and implied legal action if it was not removed. However, the Tyrants Bench does not violate the Establishment Clause. The City Council votes Thursday whether to keep the bench. The City Manager and City Solicitor apparently want the City Council to remove the bench, even though local residents have created a website and raised $10k to keep it in place.
In 2003, two members of the local VFW Post 464, Jim Mulch (deceased) and Bill Foyer, desired to create a memorial that honored veterans in their service to America. Mr. Mulch was the prime mover behind the memorial and it remains today as his legacy to the community. The memorial consists of two benches, facing a narrow obelisk, with pavers between. The pavers on the ground in front of the obelisk contain the name of VFW Post 464, surrounded by numerous other pavers given in memory of loved ones.
In including the William Penn quote, the designers of the memorial wanted to pay tribute to William Penn, who was the founder of Pennsylvania, as well as a soldier, statesman, Quaker and pacifist. William Penn, like the authors of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, believed that the rights of man come from God, not government and not other men. This bench erected in his honor, and in honor of our nation's veterans, paraphrases Penn's quote: "If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants."
"The VFW memorial, complete with the Tyrants Bench, is completely constitutional and does not violate the Establishment Clause in any way," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. "The American Atheists are blatantly incorrect and acting out of complete ignorance. This William Penn quote is part of a tribute to the veterans and founders of America. I strongly urge the City Council of Oil City to maintain the bench in place. Liberty Counsel is prepared to provide a pro bono defense of the VFW memorial, which includes the bench inscribed with the William Penn paraphrase remaining," said Staver.