The town of Monument has issued a letter saying it won't remove the memorial placed in the town-owned cemetery bearing a Christian message, a controversy we previously reported here.
The letter, from First Liberty Institute, a self-described firm "dedicated to defending religious liberty for all Americans" which stands for largely conservative causes, asks the Military Religious Freedom Foundation's founder and CEO Mikey Weinstein to apologize to the Boy Scout who arranged for the memorial to be funded and installed last October.
"We have no issue with the Boy Scout," Weinstein says by phone. "We have issues with the Boy Scout troop and the town of Monument, and government dollars being used to place it and maintain it. And what of the illegal absconding of the logos of the Department of Defense?"
He's referring to the attachment to the memorial of the service branches logos, which are trademarked and protected from usage without permission.
"It's preposterous," he said of the letter.
According to the First Liberty letter, "The memorial he created is privately designed, privately maintained, and located on private burial plots in Monument Cemetery."
"The Town of Monument appreciates all efforts by members of our community, including the Boy Scouts, to honor our veterans," the letter says. "We respectfully request that you issue an immediate apology to Michael Carlson [the Boy Scout] and his family."
Read the letter here:
Monument Town Manager Mike Foreman says while the cemetery is owned by the town, five plots, including those at issue, are owned by the scout's family. He says they purchased them on March 19 , 2021, after MRFF raised the issue with the town.
Asked how much the town paid First Liberty law firm to represent it in the matter, Foreman says, "We're not paying anything. They offered us a contract for no money in return."
As for the use of the Defense Department logos for branches of the military, which are trademarked and can't be used without permission, Foreman says, "It's on private property, so it's not on the Town of Monument's property, so it's no longer an issue that the town of Monument is concerned about."
Weinstein notes that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes First Liberty Institute on their website this way: "The First Liberty Institute (formerly Liberty Legal Institute), founded by Texas attorney and longtime anti-LGBT and anti-choice activist Kelly Shackelford in 1997. Like other organizations of the Christian Right, FLI paints Christians as 'victims' of oppression and works to implement anti-LGBT policies and push lawsuits that could codify discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of so-called 'religious liberty.'”
Weinstein also says via email, "MRFF has a very long history with First Liberty" and pointed to this press release which contains links to several cases in which, among other things, "First Liberty lied about both MRFF and the cases we were involved in and MRFF's responses."
Weinstein issued a statement on March 29, saying, in part, "MRFF decries and condemns First Liberty and the Town of Monument, Colorado’s deplorable, cowardly and transparent attempts to use Eagle Scout Michael Carlson as a veritable 'human shield.'
"It is fittingly beyond hypocritical for First Liberty to somehow attempt to be a supporter of the Boy Scouts of America given their well-established record of publicly slamming the Boy Scouts for their inclusion of LGBTQ scouts amidst their ranks."