Drop case, petition urges

EVERETT – Three Everett residents are spearheading a petition drive to get the city to drop its fight to keep the Ten Commandments monument in front of police headquarters.

The Interfaith Association of Snohomish County has sent copies of the petition to its members and asked them to support it. The association itself is not taking a stand.

But Executive Director Janet Pope, who signed the petition, said the $100,000 the city expects to spend on a lawsuit defending the monument could be better spent on social services.

The Rev. Karen Summers of First Presbyterian Church, which is a block away from the monument, agreed.

“It just seems like a waste of money when there are so many other needs,” said Summers, who was speaking for herself, not the church.

Jesse Card, 21, of Everett filed suit against the city in July, accusing it of violating the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of state endorsement of religion by displaying the monument on city property.

Martin Daniels, 40, one of the organizers of the petition effort, said more than 100 people have endorsed it in person and online in the last several weeks. Daniels created a Web site on the petition drive. Some of the signatures are from out-of-state.

City Council President Arlan Hatloe said he wouldn’t be swayed by the petitions. He said the more than 200 phone calls, e-mails and letters he has received on the issue are running 9-1 in favor of fighting the lawsuit.

“There’s a very strong sentiment in the city to keep this historical monument,” Hatloe said. “I can’t say how many people I’ve run into who say, ‘I sure hope you folks defend the Ten Commandments monument.’ I have not had one person come up to me and say, ‘We’re wasting the taxpayers’ money on this.’ “

Daniels said the monument violates the separation of church and state, and that the Everett Eagles’ headquarters on Broadway is a more appropriate location. The Eagles donated the granite monument to the city in 1959, and last summer they voted to ask the city to return it if it either loses its court battle or backs out of the fight.

The city hired the Seattle law firm Preston Gates Ellis LLP to defend it and has turned down an offer from a Virginia group, the American Center for Law and Justice, to represent the city for free.

City officials fear that letting the group represent it would undermine its legal argument that the monument represents universal values and legal principles, not a particular religion. Conservative religious leader the Rev. Pat Robertson founded the organization.

Francis Manion, senior counsel for the association, said the city’s worries are unfounded.

“I would hope judges don’t decide cases based upon who the founder of an organization is,” he said.

Manion said he, too, would argue that the monument is historic and represents universal values. But he said it’s impossible to ignore the religious roots of the Ten Commandments and how Judeo-Christian values underlie U.S. history.

Reporter David Olson: 425-339-3452 or dolson@heraldnet.com.

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