On November 2, the city council in a small Iowa town voted to remove a temporary memorial to fallen soldiers from a city park. The memorial was removed because an outside atheist group complained to the city that the memorial featured a Christian cross. Only a day after the council voted to remove the memorial, the town voted to remove the council members.
Based on the complaint of a single citizen of Knoxville, Iowa, the anti-Christian group Americans United for Separation of Church and State swooped down on the city with a threatening letter, demanding that the town council remove a temporary display to veterans that had been placed in the city’s Young Park. Because the display consisted of a silhouette of a kneeling soldier and a cross, the anti-Christian group claimed that the cross violated the separation of church and state and that it amounted to the city endorsing Christianity.
The silhouette display was meant as a sort of temporary place keeper while local townspeople raised the money for a permanent statue to veterans that was to decorate the park.
With the threats of lawsuits from the anti-Christian group ringing in their ears, on November 2, the city council met and decided in a 3 to 2 vote to remove the display.
Knoxviile City Council members April Verwers, Carolyn Formanek, and David Roozeboom were the three votes in favor of removing the display.
Town mayor Brian Hatch had defended the council vote, saying that no one really wanted to remove the display but that the city needed to avoid a costly court fight over the situation, especially since it was put in the city park without express permission of the city in the first place.
But the town was almost universally unhappy with the decision, and immediately after the council’s vote, some 2,000 small white crosses were placed in front yards all over town in support of the memorial.
Further, in the week before the city council’s vote, citizens had apparently warned the officials that if they voted to remove the display, their political careers were in jeopardy. As it happened, the day after the council voted to remove the display was election day and, much to the council members’ dismay, the town rose up and voted them out of office just as they warned they’d do.
Several citizens had set up a Facebook page called “Stop The Insanity,” urging local voters to vote two of the council members out of office. By election day, the Facebook page was celebrating, “We did it!”
Consequently, on election day, both Formanek and Verwers were voted out of office. Roozeboom chose not to run for re-election and also left his seat behind. Further, Formanek and Verwers were decidedly defeated, with neither taking any more than 15 percent of the vote.
Knoxville resident Doug Goff, who helped plan a rally in favor of the memorial display, was thrilled with Tuesday’s vote.
“I was extremely emotional,” Goff said, “because this cause is very deep to me and I felt like I have let people down. I’d like to send him the message that if you’re not going to listen to Knoxville, Knoxville’s not going to back you.”