Local News

City leaders agree to remove 'praying soldier' statue from veterans memorial

Posted January 7, 2015

King City Council voted 3-2 on Jan. 6, 2015, to remove a statue of a praying soldier from a veterans memorial, saying the cost of fighting a federal lawsuit would "greatly exceed" the city's insurance policy limits."

— Leaders in the Stokes County city of King voted 3-2 Tuesday to remove a statue of a praying soldier at a local park, saying the cost of fighting a federal lawsuit would "greatly exceed" the city's insurance policy limits.

"The decision to settle this case has been very difficult for the King City Council," the city said in a statement.

The moves comes after a two-year legal battle between the city and Steven Hewett, a former police officer and U.S. Army veteran who claimed the city promoted Christianity at a veteran's memorial that is situated in King's Central Park.

The city removed a Christian flag from the memorial in 2010 but refused to remove the statue, which depicts a soldier kneeling at a cross.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed the lawsuit on Hewett's behalf in 2012, claiming the statue and other actions by the city conveyed that it "treats only Christians as patriotic Americans – and treats others … as second-class citizens."

In a news release Wednesday, the city said it had already spent more than $50,000 in legal costs that were estimated to approach $2 million without any assurance of a win in court.

"While the Council did not wish to settle the case, the financial implications to the city were such that it was not reasonable or responsible to burden the city's taxpayers with tax increases to fund a defense to Mr. Hewett's lawsuit," the news release stated.

Americans United welcomed the City Council's vote Wednesday.

"Protracted and costly litigation in this case was in no one's interest,” the nonprofit's legal director, Ayesha N. Khan, said in a statement posted on the group's website. "We are pleased that this agreement has been reached."


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  • etshoney Jan 8, 2015

    Ask for donations and you will be overwhelmed!

  • Sherri Steve Gillikin Jan 8, 2015
    user avatar

    Every day that goes by only confirms why I like my dogs better than most people. My dogs are genuine, loyal and love unconditionally. These are all things most people can't claim.

  • rmsmith Jan 8, 2015

    Maybe someone in the town limits will erect the statue on their personal property. Would be nice if it was an adjoining land owner. I'd sure chip in some money to assist.

  • Fred Kozlof Jan 8, 2015
    user avatar

    How do you know he is praying? Maybe he's just reflecting on the good times he had with his fallen friend, or tying his shoe, or picking up his helmet, or.....

  • John McCray Jan 8, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    That is a letter, or at least part of an essay, by Jefferson. To quote all of Jefferson's writings as part of American law would be ridiculous. While the spirit of the first amendment is to prevent government from dictating the enforcement of religious law on the people of the US, it does not prevent people from publicly expressing their religious beliefs. In fact it does the opposite in so far as encouraging people to be open about their convictions by promoting free speech.

  • Taffy Jan 8, 2015

    It's such a shame. All religions pray. That doesn't mean it's just Christians that pray.

  • KittenClaws Jan 8, 2015

    "KittenClaws: "A more inclusive memorial offends me."
    So a memorial to ALL US Soldiers would be offensive to you, if it also included references to Jewish or Muslim symbols???
    Wave that flag!"

    I guess sarcasm is lost on you.

    Read more at http://www.wral.com/share/page/1896337/?id=14337168#y6zX5Z23iTWaZ0dM.99

  • Tony Snark Jan 8, 2015


  • Terry Watts Jan 8, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." - Jefferson

  • Lightfoot3 Jan 8, 2015

    "the city said it had already spent more than $50,000 in legal costs" - article

    What? They threw away 50 grand trying to trash the Constitution?! What a waste. That money could have been used on local parks, and other things with actual worth.